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Samuel Lagercrantz: Collaboration and joint efforts are the key to success

Although many questions about Covid-19 remain unanswered, the development of drugs and vaccines has been incredibly rapid, writes Samuel Lagercrantz, Life Science Sweden´s Editor-in-Chief, in an editorial.

One year ago, pharmaceutical companies embarked on finding drugs and developing vaccines against Covid-19. Very little was known about the new sars-cov-2 virus. Even today, much of the virus remains enigmatic. Why are some people affected so severely, and others barely at all? What is causing some people to suffer from long-lasting symptoms that ruin their daily lives long after falling ill, while in others, the infection behaves like a mild cold that quickly leaves the body? And how did the virus outbreak occur in Wuhan, China?

Although many questions remain unanswered, the development of drugs and vaccines has been incredibly rapid.

Collaboration is the most crucial success factor. This is particularly evident in vaccine development where pharmaceutical companies have collaborated with biotech companies, or as in the case of AstraZeneca, with a university.

The significance of the contract and consulting companies operating in the sector is also evident, and we have seen how global the life science industry really is. Swedish Recipharm replenishes American Moderna’s vaccine in a facility in France. American Novavax manufactures adjuvant for its vaccine at the company’s facility in Uppsala. There are plenty of examples that show how collaborations across companies and national borders have enabled rapid development.

In pharmaceuticals, the biggest breakthrough to date was when British researchers in a large study last summer established that dexamethasone notably reduces mortality in patients with severe Covid-19. This would make it possible to use an inexpensive and proven cortisone pharmaceutical on a large scale for the most seriously ill. Several other drugs are being evaluated against the disease, and we can expect to have an improved drug arsenal in the near future.

As for vaccines, we have not only seen that it is possible to develop them faster than anyone dared to imagine. Entirely new technologies have been introduced because the results of many years of research in genetic engineering can now be applied. One example is Pfizer/Biontech’s and Moderna’s vaccines, which both use RNA to make the body produce virus fragments that the immune system must learn to recognise.

The last year with Covid-19 has resulted in a lot of death and grief, and we all look forward to leaving it behind us, but it has also taught us to work together, and this is something we should take with us into the future.

Artikeln är en del av vårt tema om LSS in English.

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