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Prep for the Next One

While scientists developed SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in less than a year, that was still a year in which people became ill and died or lost their jobs, Vox writes. It notes that a recent paper has argued that better preparations are needed for when the next pandemic comes along.

In that paper, which appeared in NPJ Vaccines in February, researchers from the US and UK argue that governments should fund vaccine development technology, rather than pathogen-specific studies, as a broad investment will lead to flexible approaches that could be applied to a range of situations. At the same time, they suggest developing countermeasures against "prototype pathogens," or pathogens that belong to typically viral families that pose a threat to humans. "Biomedical pandemic preparedness requires prudent investments in R&D for vaccine platforms and prototype pathogens, which account for the knowledge gains that aid vaccine development for multiple pathogens, including novel viruses with pandemic potential," the researchers write.

Similarly, an editorial at Nature calls for investment in vaccine development as well as in the development of additional antiviral drugs. It notes that the COVID R&D Alliance and the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative are raising funds toward that end, and it urges the US National Institutes of Health to, in addition to investing in COVID-19 drugs, to secure funding to prepare for future pandemics. "The world cannot afford to be caught with an empty [medicine] cabinet again," Nature says.