Collaboration is the keyword of the moment in Coronavirus research

An elderly lady sits in her small room in a nursing home. At the age of 95, she has seen everything. But never before anything like this. Corona is everywhere. She is very conscious. But at the same time, it’s impossible for her to understand that there is no one to tell her why an ordinary, safe, everyday life has suddenly become strange, lonely and closed off.

The old lady is not alone in her confusion. From one day to the next, we have all heard conflicting information that often contradicts the coverage of previous days. There are many question marks along the journey of the virus, indeed When there are many contributing factors, there are no clear answers, and everyone can choose the option they prefer. “In the absence of better knowledge, it’s just a jumble of probabilities.”

Whatever the source of the virus is, as of yet there is no drug or vaccine for the disease it causes. However, the search for a functioning treatment is ongoing around the world: clinical trials are underway on both the drug and vaccine fronts.

The registry, maintained by the U.S. authorities, contains more than 150 coronavirus-related studies. According to the WHO, there are at least 42 vaccine studies in the preclinical phase.

What is interesting from the perspective of the clinical pharmaceutical industry is that the whole world is practically waiting for a medical breakthrough. One indication of this literally feverish anticipation is the WHO’s recent launching of a research plan to rapidly obtain information on the effectiveness of existing drugs. Furthermore, authorities in the EU countries have also committed to accelerated approval processes for clinical drug and vaccine trials. The aim is to speed up the introduction of an operational vaccine.

Hospitals around the world, also in Finland, are competing for the opportunity to participate in Phase II studies. The situation is exceptional with so many volunteering research patients everywhere. It is not only a question of gold and glory. Cooperation is needed now. The European Medicines Agency has also asked the research communities to work together to build up the capacity for large randomized clinical trials.

I’ve pledged to conclude my text with a message of wisdom. I’ve listened to experts and authorities, trying to find a common thread in their speeches. I have read the writings of colleagues … “In the absence of better knowledge, it is only a jumble of probabilities.”

I know the top experts will do their best and finally, they’ll find the solution.

But I wonder if it’s the right time for us ordinary people to learn to broaden our understanding: to see viruses as part of a larger whole. The first viruses were born billions of years ago as part of the evolution of life. There are more viral remnants in the human genome than actual human genes. Would we even exist without viruses?

Hannele Koskinen

Journalist. B.Sc. (Tech.)

Quotes from the book ‘Virus, kosmoksen kapellimestari’ (Matti Jalasvuori, Docendo 2020)