Inside a Seattle lab working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine
‘We’ve put a lot of projects on hold so that we can focus on this.’
In a tall building on the outskirts of downtown Seattle, a group of scientists from the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design huddle in front of computers, concentrating on their screens. Using a special program, they’re tinkering with building blocks of proteins, taking the first of many steps to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
Creating a working vaccine is challenging and will likely take over a year, at best. But with Seattle at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. — as of March 13, the state had seen 568 cases and 37 deaths, numbers almost certain to rise as more people are tested — this task is the top priority for the scientists. “We’ve put a lot of projects on hold so that we can focus on this,” said Brooke Fiala, a vaccine researcher who leads the institute’s nanoparticle laboratory.
In order to fight the coronavirus, scientists from universities and drug companies around the world are developing vaccines, using a variety of methods. Some labs are manipulating the early stages of protein development, while others are working with dead versions of the virus. Fiala and her colleagues are taking a different approach: manufacturing nanoparticles to create a more efficient vaccine.