Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar once defined a virus as “a piece of bad news wrapped up in protein.” He wrote in 1983 that “no virus is known to do good.” The key to stopping the novel coronavirus is that no virus can multiply on its own. It must invade a living cell. All hopes rest on a drug, vaccine or other therapy to disrupt the virus attack or impede its replication machinery. This is complicated science, not the instant “game changer” that President Trump has touted in the unproven antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
Traditionally, it takes years to develop, test and manufacture a vaccine; the one that worked in Congo against Ebola was under development for a decade. These hurdles haven’t changed, although one factor giving science a head start is that the whole genome of the coronavirus was sequenced and shared rapidly by China. Also, a new process of preliminary research reports unleashed a torrent of open source information.