The good news, however, is that “second generation” vaccines are being developed by researchers, many of whom are working with novel techniques. “We have an embarrassment of riches,” Altmann says. “One thing that certainly hasn’t been appreciated by most people is that, on the back burner, the field of vaccinology has been steaming ahead over the past 15 years, developing a range of incredibly snazzy strategies.”
There are nearly 240 novel vaccine candidates in development, waiting in the wings for their moment. Here are a few that show the most potential.
Similar to the approved mRNA vaccines, this one inserts genetic material from the virus directly into human cells, spurring the body to manufacture the famed “spike” protein that covers the surface of SARS-CoV-2. And like mRNA vaccines, Imperial College London’s design only delivers the genetic material, not the actual virus, so it is unlikely to exacerbate illness if people are infected following vaccination. The twist with this vaccine is that it has been modified to turn the body’s own cells into factories that continually churn out spike proteins on their own—meaning a booster shot will not be necessary. Moreover, such “self-amplifying” RNA can reportedly be made in huge volumes for little cost. “I feel very excited about the way [this approach] may turn out to be like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines but even better,” says Altmann, who was not directly involved in developing this vaccine.