Viral Times

A viral novel to inject hearts with hope and health

Developing a virus takes more time than rockers

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People have beliefs about how things are built. It’s easy to see the time it takes to make a rocking chair, in spite of what Mel Gibson showed us in his movie The Patriot. (Think weeks to make all those rockers he destroyed during a montage, not days.)

We’ve even gotten to the point of understanding the timeline for making an app, or launching a website, or developing a podcast. There are many examples for us to observe for our timelines. We can even measure successful work from skilled developers who have their apps, sites, and podcasts in the world — so we know who to hire.

Then there’s a vaccine for a virus. Cue the spooky, mysterious music. Our world doesn’t build these things often. Rarely, in fact. And unlike the chairs that litter Mel’s workshop, a failed vaccine attempt kills people. Namely, the test subjects who agree to try out the medicine. Perhaps, even millions who use it in a desperate, misguided effort.

Even if you could accept dozens of testing deaths in that noble war, there’s another factor: time. As of today, one study by the WHO identified a top-end of a 24-day period of carrying a coronavirus with no symptoms. It’s called being asymptomatic, and those three-plus weeks would mean there’s something on the order of a month of testing time for every vaccine candidate.

Don’t panic at that. The median period is five days, at the moment.

That’s just the testing. In the computer world, testing represents 30 percent of the development time on a project. The hardest 30 percent, many project leaders say. The other 70 percent is design and construction. So in a worst case, 100 days: Yes, three months and more for an effective vaccine that works on a few dozen test subjects.

You measure the days. In a best-case, hit-the-first hand to win with a 21 in blackjack kind of scenario, 70 days of development plus 30 days of testing gives you three and a half months.

Check in with me here: How many of you gamblers hit on 21 in your first hand? It’s not lottery-win rare. Then you consider how much more complex viral medicine is, compared to 52 cards with a combination of — um, carry the 10s — about 12 cards where you must draw the right three in a row. Be sure to account for the microscopes and RNA examinations of vaccines, instead of face cards you can see from across the table.

The point is that a vaccine will need months of testing, not 30 days, just because we don’t want to make something that makes the virus worse. Failure might be an option, but it’s a deadly one. A vaccine not fully tested might mutate the virus, so it becomes a new devil to slay. None of Mel’s failed rockers killed a village.

Despite what our President would prefer, we’re looking at next year to get a drug to protect us all. The most important thing that accelerates vaccine development is teamwork. It’s going to take a new level of scientific collaboration for the wonder drug that rocks us back into new health.

Photo by Cassandra Ortiz on Unsplash

Written by Ron Seybold

March 18, 2020 at 7:37 am

Posted in Public health, Vaccines

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