A glance at the data reported on Covid-19 shows that this virus is far from being over. The United States is still reporting over 50K cases per day, with Florida and Michigan being the current hot spots. Daily deaths are trending back up, almost 1,000 on April 28. Still, that is a long way from the 4,500 per day our country saw in January. In some areas of the country, high vaccination rates combined with those who have had the virus and recovered have made those areas pretty safe.

I was happy to work with our Covid vaccine efforts at Love Civic Center. The beauty of seeing science and community come together to fight this disease was something to be very proud of and extraordinary to witness.

I hope our country can remain vigilant, get fully vaccinated and put the final nail in the coffin of this virus. In a global effort, America can take the lead and assist countries like India, currently being ravaged by the virus. Tracking the genetics of the variants as they evolve in our country and others will be critical. Over 1.2 million SARS-CoV-2 viral sequences from 172 countries are now in GISAID; an online data-sharing platform initially set up for avian flu.

The virus is constantly mutating. The more it spreads, the stronger the selection will be for mutations that allow the virus to copy itself better or evade the immune system. Thus far, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines prove highly effective against the variants, even those with the dreaded EeK or E484K mutation. Moderna also announced that its vaccine is stable for 30 days in a standard refrigerator, which is excellent news for storage concerns.

There are many other vaccines in clinical trial stages that look very promising also. I encourage you to check into a Dallas-based company called Vaxxinity. Vaxxinity is developing the first multitope peptide-based vaccine for Covid -19. Their candidate vaccine is called UB-612. It consists of eight short peptides made in the lab that stimulate the immune system to attack multiple regions of the virus. The peptides mimic various shapes of the virus and get your immune system primed to attack those shapes. Stage 2 clinical trials are going on in Taiwan and Brazil currently. The San Francisco-based company, Vaxart, makes another vaccine which is starting Phase 2 trials. Vaxart aims to get your immune system to target both the spike protein and the nucleocapsid, or N protein, of the virus. Unlike the spike protein, the N protein changes very little; it might hold the key to a universal vaccine equally effective against all variants.

Pfizer has already made a great vaccine, but it is now testing a promising new pill that currently goes by the name PF-07321332. This pill is a protease inhibitor. Protease is a crucial enzyme that functions to cut up large viral polypeptides into smaller functional proteins. These smaller active proteins work to rebuild new viruses inside your cells. If you could block the action of protease, then the proteins the virus needs to build itself inside your cells would be dysfunctional. This should shut down viral reproduction. Having a pill someone could take at home that would cure Covid-19 would be a game-changer.

Science is once again demonstrating why it is called our candle in the darkness.

Dr. Jack Brown is the Paris Junior College Science Division chairman. 

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