Global Impact

Trailblazers in Pandemic Preparedness

New universal coronavirus vaccine could prevent future pandemics.

David R. Martinez in the lab on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

New universal coronavirus vaccine could prevent future pandemics.

Scientists at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have developed a vaccine that could be effective against COVID-19, its variants and a future coronavirus pandemic.

After testing the effectiveness of the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines, researchers pivoted to look at a second-generation vaccine that would target sarbecoviruses.

Lead study authors, David R. Martinez, a postdoctoral researcher at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Ralph Baric, an epidemiologist at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and professor of immunology and microbiology at the UNC School of Medicine, conducted research that led to the new therapies to fight emerging infectious diseases.

The universal vaccine, similar to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, uses mRNA. But instead of including the mRNA code for only one virus, it consists of mRNA from multiple coronaviruses.

“Our findings look bright for the future because they suggest we can design more universal pan coronavirus vaccines to proactively guard against viruses we know are at risk for emerging in humans,” Martinez said. “With this strategy, perhaps we can prevent a SARS-CoV-3.”

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