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Biotechs: duration of COVID-19 response compared to previous health threats 2003-2019

Biotech companies started clinical trials on potential treatments for COVID-19 just three months after the genetic sequence of the virus was made public. In comparison, companies entered clinical trials 20 months after the viral genome of the SARS coronavirus was sequenced.

A cure could take several more months

Chinese authorities shared the genetic sequence for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in early January, allowing research groups to analyze how the virus infects human cells and makes people sick. Treatments are now in development; several have entered early clinical trials. Assuming all tests go well, a treatment for COVID-19 could still take up to 18 months before being approved for public use. New vaccines typically take years, and there is enormous pressure to make it safe and effective for all members of the diverse population.

Parallels with the SARS epidemic

The SARS coronavirus was responsible for the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that first affected humans in the Guangdong province of China in 2002. The official name for the coronavirus is SARS-CoV, which is very similar to the SARS-CoV-2 name chosen for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. While genetically related and believed to spread in similar ways, the two viruses are different. There were more than 8,000 reported cases of SARS before it was brought under control in 2003.

Duration of biotech companies' response to COVID-19 pandemic compared to other health threats between 2003 and 2019

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Release date

March 2020



Survey time period

as of March 2020

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Statistics on "Coronavirus: the pharma and medtech response"

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