How to make a vaccine in record time.
It can take 10 to 15 years for a vaccine to reach the clinic. Our personal best as a species is around a third of that. Faced with the biggest pandemic in a century, we hope to smash the record. Recognising the threat from pandemics, Oxford researchers started working on how to deliver a vaccine against a so far unknown 'Disease X'. We'd already run clinical trials on that delivery mechanism, in fact, with another kind of coronavirus. That trial data meant we could move quickly into the early phases of the COVID-19 vaccine trial since we knew how to make a vaccine that should work. Ideally, we'd need a factory on-site to make the vaccine quickly for trials... and, happily, we did.
We screened volunteers before we knew human trials would start so that we could start testing the vaccine in humans the next day after safety data were published. And we'd need commercial partners ready to make the vaccine if it was shown to work -- in fact, before it's shown to work, so we have it in large quantities ready if we find it's effective. We'd need regulators and funders to make us their top priority to review our work and fund it... and they did.
It's still complex work, and the science takes as long as it needs to take, but by throwing all our resources at the problem and running stages of development in parallel, we've made it as fast as it could possibly be this time around. And we're not on our own: we're one of the dozens of such trials, as well as treatments, public health interventions, the works. We're not in a race against other researchers, we're racing a virus, and however long that takes... We aim to win.