By James S. Kallman/ Dr. Meryl Kallman
“It can’t be done,” they said, yet within a year researchers working around the world have managed to produce not one, but several vaccines that have proven effective against the Covid-19 virus.
They were, of course, not working blind, for Covid-19 is a member of the RNA coronavirus family that causes a range of infections from the common cold through to the more deadly SARS, MERS and now Covid-19. So there were some definite patterns to work on, ideas on what might prove an effective counter from the last time they had approached similar problems.
Nevertheless, pure research is an expensive pastime in which few are employed merely for the advancement of knowledge. Government grants are pared back in normal times and even then concentrate where there is likely to be most need. Pharmaceutical firms frown on the exotic, concentrating instead on profitable areas of high demand, for after all they are commercial enterprises.
Yet there have been great advances in medical research since the last global pandemic struck a century ago. Just think, back then they didn’t even have antibiotics, whereas today we can call into play RNA, CRISPR and even gene editing, all new tools the use of which has to be fully explored.
For we cannot be caught sleeping again, and there will be a next time given the growing interaction between animals and humans; after all bacteria and viruses have been around a lot longer than homo sapiens, and viruses in particular are very quick to mutate to more transmissible forms.
It’s a matter of getting our priorities right if we are going to maximize the advantages that the present pandemic has presented. Global responsibility must replace worship at the unforgiving god of global profit. Yes, there are occasions when promotion of global image is worth far more than a fat profit line.
Governments must not pare back on medical research, but instead increase the spending on healthcare as a whole. Just think of the countless trillions that could have been saved even if we had been halfway prepared. Even in my lifetime the once-global scourge of smallpox has been defeated, saving both lives and millions spent on healthcare.
Today there is hope for malaria as the blueprint for a new vaccine has been developed using a RNA-based platform that defeats the T-cell suppressing protein associated with malaria. Effective on mice, it has yet to be tested on humans, but highly promising first steps on the path to wiping out a disease that kills upwards of 400,000 people a year.
It will take time, and money, but so too has the development of mRNA vaccines that were first approved last year and have potential in the fight against forms of cancer and flu, etc.
Then there are the 4% of people in the DR Congo than can naturally suppress HIV, which is four times the global average.
These and so many more are worthy of further research as part of what could prove ‘the golden age of medicine’.
James S. Kallman is the Senior Partner of global accounting and consulting firm Moores Rowland and his daughter Meryl Kallman is a practicing physician in Indonesia, expert in wellness and preventative medicine with a decade of experience working across 3 continents.