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Science by press release: When the story gets ahead of the science

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
 

By Sanjay Gupta (original source CNN)

A little more than three months after the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, it has become evident that both the research cycle and the news cycle have accelerated to levels never seen before in our lifetime.

According to the Milken Institute, there are at least 254 treatments and 172 vaccines currently in development to fight Covid-19. I’ve reported on many of them. Some of them are just being developed, like PAC-MAN, a new anti-viral treatment that uses the gene therapy technology CRISPR. Others are drugs finding a new life, like remdesivir, which initially showed effectiveness in treating animals with SARS and MERS, and was even trialed unsuccessfully for Ebola.

The media’s coverage of these developments has also been at “breakneck speed” — because finding any way to stall the spread of this disease is so imperative. For example, several scientists recently called me both on and off the record to relay their optimism that a vaccine could be available by the beginning of next year. It would be a remarkably fast process, given that vaccine development is typically measured in years or decades, not months. So this past week, I took a step back to dig deeper into the studies and look into the source of this optimism. I was surprised at how thin the available data actually is in peer-reviewed medical journals.

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