(Sarah Pitt/ The Conversation) — There are now quite a few COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline, but two seem to be making promising progress: the one designed by the US biotechnology company Moderna, and the one developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca.
In both cases, the research teams have built on their previous experience with vaccines, adapting their existing models to meet the particular requirements of making a vaccine for COVID-19. This has led to the two vaccines being prepared using different approaches. Does that matter, and is one more likely to reach the goal of a safe, effective vaccine first?
Although the way the body interacts with SARS-CoV-2 isn’t fully understood, there’s one particular part of the virus that we think triggers a protective immune response – the spike protein, which sticks up on the virus’s surface.
So, the aim of the vaccine scientists has been to find a way to safely introduce that protein into the body in a form that stimulates an immune response. Both the Oxford and the Moderna teams have opted to do this using a piece of the virus’s genetic material. (…)