Developing a vaccine or a treatment for a newly discovered virus is a painstakingly slow and detailed endeavor. Finding a compound that works, testing it in animals, and then rolling it out to clinical trials in humans can take years. And even the top experts in virology and epidemiology typically toil in obscurity, spending long, lonely hours in the lab and garnering fleeting interest only when an unknown ailment sparks headlines. The novel coronavirus has changed all that.
“I’ve got 57 million things to do at once,” says Sarah Gilbert, an Oxford University researcher who devised a vaccine considered one of the front-runners to stop the outbreak. Like other leading lights in the battle to contain COVID-19, she’s short on sleep and time as she cobbles together funding and fields calls on how to quickly get the vaccine into production.