In DepthCOVID-19

Vaccine wagers on coronavirus surface protein pay off

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Science  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6519, pp. 894-895
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6519.894


Designers of COVID-19 vaccines appear to have made a spectacularly successful bet. When devising their vaccines, most developers gambled on spike, the protein that allows SARS-CoV-2 to dock onto and infect cells. This week's announcement by the biotech Moderna that its COVID-19 vaccine powerfully protected people from the disease in an efficacy trial was the strongest sign yet that spike is a winning hand. Since 9 November, Moderna, the pharma giant Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech, and a Russian institute have all offered preliminary evidence that spike-based vaccines can achieve greater than 90% efficacy. Because the vast majority of remaining COVID-19 vaccine candidates are also designed to deliver spike—either via its genetic code or the protein itself—the good news may keep arriving.

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