On June 15 & 16, 2020, over 1700 people tuned in from 44 countries around the globe to attend our inaugural eSymposia virtual meeting on "Vaccinology in the Age of Pandemics: Strategies Against COVID-19 & Other Global Threats." The event was a huge success, gathering global leaders in vaccine design, development and implementation to discuss recent technological advances and strategies that have vastly accelerated the quest for the coveted COVID-19 vaccine.
Audiences from far and wide engaged with speakers, and each other, in the Live Chat, Online Discussion Forums and other interactive features of the eSymposia platform, generating new ideas and directions to drive the field forward.
Here we share some of the highlights & videos from the landmark event
In this Keynote Address, Dr. Anthony Fauci outlines the latest vaccinology advances and approaches that have vastly accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Fauci credits recent advances in technology for enabling this unprecedented rapid response, which in just the last few years have transformed vaccinology capabilities. These include:
Rapid genetic sequencing of new pathogens
Structure-based vaccine design and reverse vaccinology approaches
New and diverse vaccine platforms combined with improved adjuvants
Humanized animal models for vaccine testing
In addition, new preparedness strategies have accelerated vaccine development efforts. Since the early 2000s, researchers have been working preemptively on vaccines for emerging pathogens, and can now apply lesson learned from these efforts in COVID-19 vaccine design, development and testing. Meanwhile, preparation of clinical trial sites, manufacturing and other logistic considerations in the testing and deployment of a vaccine are critical to have ready prior to launch.
Ultimately, new partnerships between public and private sectors have enabled all of these pieces to come together at “warp speed” in the face of this new pandemic.
Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett has taken center stage in the news media for her efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as a key leader of Dr. Barney S. Graham’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center. As Scientific Lead of the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis (coVip) Team, the spotlight shines on her now, but she has been diligently preparing for this day throughout the course of her now skyrocketing career.
Back in October of 2018, as a Keystone Symposia Fellow, she presented her work on “Advancing Towards a General Solution for Coronavirus Vaccines” at the Framing the Response to Emerging Virus Infections Keystone Symposia meeting in Hong Kong. Now, less than 2 years later, she is at the heart of the vaccine response efforts for the largest global pandemic of our lifetimes, thus far.
Here Dr. Corbett shares the latest advances in the NIAID COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, which in collaboration with Moderna, have shattered previous timelines for design and implementation, progressing to Phase I clinical trial in 66 days following the viral sequence release. A Phase II clinical trial is currently underway, and the vaccine is on trajectory towards a Phase III efficacy trial to tentatively begin in July. Her presentation is followed by a one-on-one interview with JEM editor Gaia Trincucci, where she shares what it is like to work on vaccine efforts in the midst of a pandemic, while the whole world watches and awaits the results. She also reflects on her path to this place on the precipice of a pandemic, where she never imagined she would find herself, and shares some advice for the next-generation of scientists who aspire to follow in her footsteps.
ePanel Discussion "Facing COVID-19 & Other Emerging Infections"
In this ePanel discussion, global research leaders discuss the biggest challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and opportunities for deploying vaccinology advances against this global threat.
Dr. Rino Rappouli of GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines
Dr. Lynda Stuart of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Dr. Richard Hatchett of The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
Dr. George Gao of The Chinese Center for Disease Control & Prevention (China CDC)
1. Since the emergence of COVID-19, vaccines have been prepared for testing at unprecedented speed. Has this been made possible by the availability of new technologies, or rather preparation by researchers and industry partners to mount a fast response to emerging viral threats? Or both? How have each of these contributed to accelerated vaccine development timelines against COVID-19?
2. Are we going to get efficacy and correlates of protection with this first wave of candidate vaccines? What are the challenges to achieving efficacy and what approaches are being used to maximize chances of success? What are proposed correlates of protection, and what are the challenges to identifying them? If we don’t get it right the first time, then what—how do we move forward to improve the next round of development?
3. What are the risks of moving fast to mass vaccination with new vaccines and new technologies? How can these risks be managed or mitigated? Do these risks look different around the world, such as Asia versus Europe, or developing nations?
4. While research is moving fast, implementing a vaccine will be a challenge when it comes to manufacturing a billion doses of vaccines and achieving equitable distribution around the world. How can we prepare for these challenges ahead of time to be ready for action when the time comes? What strategies and infrastructure is already in place to achieve this, and what work still needs to be done?
5. How can we apply what we have learned in this process to be better prepared for future pandemics? What infrastructure, procedures, etc. should be put in place, and what technologies should be further developed, to give us a head start against the next global threat?
See Twitter Moments from the Vaccinology eSymposia:
Shannon Weiman earned her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, specializing in microbiology and immunology. Prior to joining the Keystone Symposia team, she worked as a freelance writer for leaders in academic, industry and government research, including Stanford University’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative, the University of Colorado’s Biofrontiers Program, UCSF, the FDA and the American Society for Microbiology.