DARPA joins race to develop coronavirus vaccine

When DARPA launched the Pandemic Preparedness Platform (P3) two years ago, the likelihood of a pandemic occurring was purely theoretical. Researchers working in this program were looking for ways to instantly protect against dangerous infections.

P3's plan was to take as a basis any emerging pathogen and develop in two months a means to fight a dangerous disease. Then the team successfully coped with the task.

In relation to the new coronavirus epidemic, the 60-day P3 program begins with blood sampling from a person who has recovered from COVID-19. Scientists will then try to extract from the sample all the protective antibodies produced by the patient's body to fight the disease. Using modeling and bioinformatics, they will select the most effective antibody to neutralize the pathogen. Then determine the genetic sequence that codes for the creation of the selected antibody. The resulting fragment of the genetic code is reproduced and scaled for mass use.

According to P3 manager Amy Jenkins, this approach is much faster than the production of the antibodies themselves. Once the patient receives an injection, "his body becomes a bioreactor" that creates antibodies. DARPA calls this "fire-fighting" technology because it can provide immediate immunity for medical personnel, ambulances and other vulnerable people.