Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina interviewed Richard Horton on Motley Fool Live on Oct. 9. Horton runs the British medical journal The Lancet and has been at the forefront of publishing data about the coronavirus pandemic this year. He also recently published a book called The COVID-19 Catastrophe.
Here, Horton explains why we're likely to see multiple waves of COVID-19 vaccines that are continually better than before.
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Cardina: Talking about the speed of innovation, we've talked a little bit about this, but 10 months into the pandemic, we've got almost 10 vaccine candidates in phase 3. It's really astounding. Looking at the history, China published the genetic code on January 12, two weeks after the first biopsy was taken from a COVID-19 patient. We actually saw a company, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO 0.03%), said it created a coronavirus vaccine candidate within three hours of that code being released. Have you ever seen anything like this speed of innovation before? How have these circumstances evolved differently from earlier outbreaks? We touched on the SARS virus in 2002, 2003. There's the Ebola virus in 2013 and '14. I'd love to hear about the innovation in historical context.
Horton: Well, Corinne, I've been at this journal for 30 years, this is my 30th year at The Lancet, and I can honestly tell you I've never seen the kind of cooperation between the private sector and the public sector and the speed that we've seen science move as I've seen this past 10 months. Normally, it takes about seven to eight years to produce a vaccine from the time when you actually have the viral or bacterial particle. Here, as you say, we haven't just got these nine or 10 vaccines in phase 3 trials, we have 140 other vaccines that are in pre-clinical or phase 1 or phase 2 trials. So we've got this vast number of vaccines, and this is important because the likelihood is that the very first vaccines we get, if we do get one at the end of this year, they're not going to be the best vaccines. So we're going to see some of the 130 or 140 other vaccines that are still in development. Some of those are going to be better than the first vaccines that we get. Actually, just as we have waves of the viral pandemic, we're going to have waves of vaccines. That first wave of vaccines will be so-so; the second and third waves of vaccines, they'll be much, much better. The science is moving quickly, spectacularly actually, and I think by the end of 2021, we're going to be in an even better place than we are now.