(Reuters) – Drugmakers racing to find a vaccine or effective treatment for the deadly new coronavirus in China cautioned that they have a long way to go.
That runs counter to reports of a supposed “breakthrough” that on Wednesday boosted financial markets and spurred optimism not necessarily backed by reality.
At least a dozen drugmakers are working on vaccines or antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading contagion.
Investment costs for vaccines could run as high as $800 million in a process that, even if accelerated, will likely take more than a year until approval, according to executives from companies involved in the effort.
“It will take at least 12 to 18 months, which means in the acute situation we are in now – at least in China – that will not create a benefit,” said Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK.L) vaccine unit. GSK is working with developers by providing a technology that could make their vaccines more potent.
The virus, which emerged in December in China, has killed nearly 500 people and shows no sign of abating, with thousands of new cases reported each day, mostly in central China’s Hubei province. But its spread to some 27 countries and regions has caused global alarm.
To be sure, companies developing treatments for patients who are already sick may be able to get a drug approved faster than a vaccine that would be given to healthy people. Even so, logistical and regulatory challenges remain, according to two executives at Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O), which is working on an experimental antiviral treatment.