‘Missing’ mice means coronavirus drug, vaccine may take longer

Updated: March 14, 2020 8:59 AM

The dry pipeline of transgenic mice means anti-corona drug/vaccine may take longer than expected.

news coronavirus covid 19 latest updates in hindi first death in Karnataka- india due to covid 19The report means that the talk of fast-tracking drug development for Covid-19 remains just talk. (Reuters)

By FE Editorial

A possible coronavirus (SARS CoV-2) cure will have to wait. Bloomberg reports that the supply-line of transgenic mice needed for studies has been dry for sometime now—and it will take quite a few weeks, even months, to restore this in adequate numbers for research to take off.

This means, talk of fast-tracking drug development for Covid-19 remains just talk. The problem is that even though mice and human share, to a large extent, a similar genetic make up—and physiological conditions manifest in a near-identical manner in both, making them top candidates for research on human pathologies—viral infections need a specific gene to exhibit similar characteristics—ACE2—which mice lack.

Thus, transgenic mice are key to developing any drug. But, maintaining transgenic mice colonies at hand for anti-viral research is expensive, especially at a time when drug research is focusing on chronic diseases, and ailments like cancer, where the role of viruses is very limited.

So, by the time the supply is ready, corona would have likely become a much bigger problem, or the worst would likely be over. While some have talked about bypassing animal studies and proceeding directly to human trials, that process is a regulatory and ethical landmine.

Though some researchers, as Bloomberg reports, have turned to other animals, this isn’t nearly similar as conducting the experiments on mice—bringing to mind the cliché about the best-laid plans of mice and men.

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