Vaccine development: how crises and disruption accelerated new discoveries


The arrival, spread, and gradual containment of Covid-19 was one of the most significant medical crises in living history. It prompted an unprecedented global reaction and accelerated coordinated research efforts beyond any previously imagined timetable.

Today, the impact of that work is becoming clear. And it could have profound consequences for humanity, with vaccine development advanced beyond all recognition.

So much investment was made, and so much urgency placed on finding an effective vaccine against Covid-19, that it transformed both the speed of vaccine development and the potential impact vaccines could deliver in the relatively near future of the next decade.

A process that typically took 10-15 years of laboratory work* was completed in just 11 months. Now vaccines for a new group of diseases are in the crosshairs of the world’s leading clinical researchers. But the path to success was far from straightforward.

Creating a new way of delivering successful vaccines
While ultimately far quicker and more effective than anybody had imagined in 2019, the transformation of traditional vaccine procedures involved a succession of challenges. Across the entire industry, leaders had to navigate disruption in technologies, supply chains, and ways of working.

Through social distancing and strict health protocols, CROs, for example, had to learn how to complete clinical trials in a more hands-off manner. Gone, for many, was the old reliance on site visits. Instead, a way had to be found to ensure the successful adoption and widespread implementation of decentralised clinical trials.

Suddenly, traditional parts of the clinical trial process became even more complex. How could a CRO confidently choose the right equipment supplier, for example, when equipment had to be distributed to nurses and patients rather than a central hub? To make matters even more testing, many suppliers without experience in decentralised clinical trials were adapting to the new model at the same time as the CROs requiring their services. And every supplier had to overcome supply chain complications during the pandemic.

The large-scale use of new technology also presented new considerations. How could you guarantee data security among participants using continuous monitoring devices?

Thankfully, the industry rose to tackle these issues with both vigour and dedication.

Excitement is now building over new vaccine possibilities
It is incredibly rewarding to see the result of all that hard work coming together into something tangible.

The most obvious area of excitement is in the widespread development of mRNA vaccines***. Work on these chemically synthesised vaccines had been quietly developing during the two decades before Covid-19. But when Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna began to use this technology for their Covid-19 vaccines, it had an immediate impact.

First, the ability to mass manufacture these vaccines was proven beyond doubt. As shots went into hundreds of millions of arms around the world, their efficacy was also established.

Now, some of the biggest challenges in medicine appear within touching distance of being solved. Shingles, malaria, and Zika virus are all being targeted by researchers who are increasingly confident of imminent major breakthroughs. Even melanoma and other cancers, which would require personalised rather than mass-produced vaccines, could eventually be conquered.

All of this activity also places humankind in a stronger, more agile position ahead of any future pandemics. Over the last three years, the entire vaccine development process has become significantly more robust. These more efficient practices are unlikely to be reversed, so the future looks brighter than ever.

Trusted support for vaccine research
Woodley Trial Solutions has been supplying equipment for decentralised clinical trials long before the Covid-19 pandemic made them a necessity. Our extensive knowledge and worldwide experience combine to make use one of the world’s most trusted partners for senior research leaders looking for bespoke advice, support, and equipment supplies. And you can take it as standard that we’ll always go the extra mile to ensure your trial is a success.

If you’re a CRO looking for reliable and tailored equipment supplies for your next vaccine clinical trial, contact us today. Our friendly team will be happy to help.
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