SAN ANTONIO – Texas Biomedical Research Institute is waiting to receive a live animal model of COVID-19 to begin researching a way to stop or slow down the coronavirus.
Animal models are used to study the development and progression of diseases and to test new treatments before they are given to humans, according to Cancer.gov.
Once the institute receives the model, it will join scientists from around the world who are already using their knowledge to help find a vaccine or an antiviral drug.
Dr. Jean Patterson, a researcher with Texas Biomed, said finding a vaccine could be an uphill battle because of how similar it is to the SARS virus from the early 2000s.
“This is probably going to be a little more difficult in some of them we’ve looked at because no one was ever able to develop a good model for SARS,” she said.
The facility has been successful in helping find treatments for Ebola, Marburg virus and contributed to the creation of a Zika virus vaccine.
“If we have an animal model, we can use it in the three things that are most important, which is diagnosing treatments, an antiviral or a vaccine. And all of those things rely on developing an animal model,” she explains.
Using drugs that have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the fastest way to get treatment to patients, she explained. Once a drug looks promising and worth trying, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health could approve the use of it on a patient in what’s known as “compassionate use."
Patterson said finding a vaccine could take years, but with everyone working together, she’s optimistic scientists can find an answer in about a year.
"This is what - when a virus appears like this or any pathogen - we got this. This is what we do,” she said.
Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have received a live virus sample from the CDC and are already working on a vaccine.
The university released the following statement: