Reality is beginning to sink in. Despite the availability of a growing number of COVID-19 vaccines and other therapies, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely to become endemic in the medium term, if not longer.
A handful of coronaviruses — among them strains of NL63, OC43, 229E and HKU1 — are already endemic.
For drug developers, an endemic SARS-CoV-2 could have significant implications. While effective COVID-19 vaccines will likely enable developed nations to roll back coronavirus-related restrictions, demand for new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines could remain elevated for years.
A crowded market with robust competition promises to translate to more success in battling the pandemic.
“It’s really realigning the thinking around the industry — certainly around fields such as infectious diseases, which have been somewhat neglected and minimized in the pharma industry,” Raday said.
The pandemic is also driving tighter collaboration between regulators, academic researchers and industry. “Without efficient collaboration between these three entities going forward, there is a big gap between what we want to achieve and what we can achieve,” Raday added. “There are still a lot of lessons being learned in terms of how to structure large studies, how to move quickly and allow innovation to thrive while still maintaining rigorous standards.”
As the virus continues to mutate, efforts to develop bespoke vaccines and therapies that remain effective against emerging variants will likely remain elevated.
As a growing number of therapies to prevent or minimize acute COVID-19 symptoms become available, demand could also increase for treatments to help patients manage long-term COVID-19 symptoms, which can include fatigue, insomnia, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell.