Transcript: The Race to Find a Vaccine | Mar 24, 2020

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue shirt and a checked red tie.

A caption on screen reads "The race to find a vaccine. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says FOR CANADIAN SCIENTISTS ALREADY RACING TO FIND A VACCINE TO TREAT THE CORONAVIRUS, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S JUST ANNOUNCED FUND OF ALMOST 200 MILLION dollars WILL BE WELCOME NEWS. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, AND HOW FAR ALONG ARE RESEARCHERS? LET'S FIND OUT. LET'S ASK, IN TORONTO VIA FACETIME: ALAN BERNSTEIN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF CIFAR, THE CANADIAN INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED RESEARCH...

Alan is in his seventies, with short gray hair and a mustache. He's wearing a black suit and a white shirt.

Steve continues And Dr. ROBERT KOZAK, CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGIST AT SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE AND THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO...

Robert is in his forties, with short brown hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a pink shirt.

Steve continues AND GENTLEMEN, WE WELCOME BOTH OF YOU TO OUR MAKESHIFT BROADCAST THIS EVENING. LET ME PUT YOU TO WORK BY ASKING: HOW MUCH OF CANADA'S SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE, IS INVOLVED IN FINDING A VACCINE OR A TREATMENT FOR COVID-19?

The caption changes to "Alan Bernstein. CIFAR."

Alan says I THINK THE COMMUNITY IS REALLY ENGAGED AND IS VERY EAGER TO HELP OUT IN ANY WAY THEY CAN, STEVE. I THINK IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CANADA TO REALLY UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING UP A SCIENTIFIC ENTERPRISE BEFORE THE FIRE BREAKS OUT. YOU DON'T HIRE A FIRE DEPARTMENT WHEN A FIRE BREAKS OUT. AND SO THE COMMUNITY IS REALLY ENGAGED IN THAT WAY. OF COURSE, ALL THE LABS AT UNIVERSITIES ARE CLOSED SO ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE ACTUALLY DISCUSSED YESTERDAY, AND I KNOW THERE'S ANOTHER CALL WITH THE CHIEF SCIENCE ADVISOR SOMETIME THIS WEEK, IS HOW WE OPEN UP SOME SELECT LABS AT UNIVERSITIES TO MOVE THIS FORWARD.

Steve says WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO HAZARD A GUESS, THOUGH, BY SAYING, I DON'T KNOW WHAT? FIVE PERCENT? 25 PERCENT? HALF OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY IS IN ON THIS, OR WHAT?

Alan says I'M GOING TO HAZARD A GUESS, IF YOU REALLY PUSH ME, TO ABOUT 10 TO 20 PERCENT. THE PROBLEM IS WHAT I JUST SAID, THAT UNIVERSITIES ARE CLOSED.

Steve says GOTCHA. ROB, LET ME ASK YOU. YOU AND YOUR MEDICAL PARTNER ARE PART OF THE EFFORT TO FIND A VACCINE OR SOME KIND OF SOLUTION TO ALL OF THIS, AND I GATHER IT WAS YOUR TEAM THAT ISOLATED WHAT IS TECHNICALLY CALLED SARS-CoV-2 IN THE FIRST PLACE. WHAT DOES THAT ACTUALLY MEAN?

The caption changes to "Robert Kozak. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre."

Robert says SO WHAT WE DID IS WE ISOLATED THE VIRUS... YOU'RE CORRECT... WITH NOT JUST MY COLLEAGUE HERE AT SUNNYBROOK BUT ALSO COLLABORATORS AT McMASTER WERE WORKING ON THIS AND WE ARE WORKING WITH OTHER GROUPS SUCH AS A GROUP IN LAVAL ON VACCINE WORK. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS WAS NOW WE HAVE A VIRUS THAT CAN BE USED NOT JUST BY OUR GROUP BUT BY MANY GROUPS FOR TESTING THERAPEUTICS, FOR TESTING VACCINES, FOR IMPROVING DIAGNOSTICS. IT'S SOMETHING WE'RE HOPING TO GET OUT AS QUICK AS WE CAN TO A LOT OF LABS TO REALLY PUSH THE SCIENCE FORWARD.

Steve says ALAN, WE APPRECIATE WE'RE NOT LIVING UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES RIGHT NOW, BUT UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, WHEN A PROBLEM HITS, HOW LONG DOES IT THEN TAKE TO CREATE A VACCINE?

Alan says WELL, IT DEPENDS. WHEN H.I.V. HIT 35, 40 YEARS AGO, AND WE STILL DON'T HAVE A VACCINE. IT'S A VERY DIFFICULT VIRUS. FOR THIS VIRUS, I THINK THE NUMBERS THAT HAVE BEEN THROWN AROUND ARE ONE TO TWO YEARS. I THINK THAT'S A REASONABLE TIME ESTIMATE. ONE OF THE ISSUES, YOU HAVE TO APPRECIATE IS, TO KNOW WHETHER YOU HAVE A SAFE AND EFFECTIVE VACCINE, YOU HAVE TO GIVE THE VACCINE CANDIDATE, THE VOLUNTEERS, AND THERE HAS TO BE HIGH INCIDENCE OF THE DISEASE IN THE POPULATION TO KNOW WHETHER ACTUALLY THE VACCINE CANDIDATE IS PROTECTIVE. SO WHEN SARS-1 BROKE OUT IN 2003, WE REALLY STARTED, WHEN I WAS PRESIDENT OF CIFAR, AN INITIATIVE TO DEVELOP A VACCINE, BUT SARS, THE DISEASE, DISAPPEARED. NOT ONLY WAS THERE NO NEED FOR THE VACCINE BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO TEST IT TO SEE WHETHER IT WAS EFFECTIVE.

Steve says ROB, I'M NOT SURE WHETHER WE'RE GOING TO GET LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE THIS DISAPPEAR, COVID-19, I MEAN. ON THE ONE HAND, AS ALAN TOLD US, THE RESOURCES ARE NOT REALLY ABLE TO BE BROUGHT TO BEAR IN A WAY WE'D LIKE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE SO MANY OF THE LABS ARE SHUT DOWN. SO CAN YOU HELP US UNDERSTAND WHETHER THE TIMELINE OF A YEAR OR TWO MAKES SENSE FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW?

Robert says ABSOLUTELY. I THINK, YEAH, A TIMELINE FROM ONE TO TWO YEARS IS ACTUALLY QUITE REASONABLE. I KNOW THAT THERE ARE LABS WORKING ON IT THAT ARE OBVIOUSLY GOING TO BE MOVING AS FAST AS THEY CAN TO GET THE DATA AND TO DO ALL THE NECESSARY TRIALS, BUT I DON'T... I THINK IT'S SOMETHING WHERE YOU DON'T WANT TO CUT ANY CORNERS BECAUSE YOU WANT A SAFE AND EFFICACIOUS VACCINE BUT YOU WANT TO MOVE AS QUICK AS WE CAN. ONE OF THE I GUESS A BIT OF AN ADVANTAGE TO THIS BEING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC IS, EVEN IF... AND I HOPE WE ARE ABLE TO CONTROL IT HERE IN CANADA, THAT WE DON'T SEE AN INCREASE IN CASES, BUT IF WE ARE ABLE TO DO A LOT OF THE VACCINE WORK HERE, THERE'S THE POSSIBILITY FOR IT TO BE DEPLOYED IN AREAS WHERE THERE ARE MORE CASES, IN OTHER COUNTRIES, WHERE IT COULD BE USED IN ORDER TO POTENTIALLY HELP MITIGATE THEIR OUTBREAK. SOMETHING SIMILAR THAT WAS ACTUALLY DONE WITH THE VACCINE AGAINST EBOLA A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO.

Steve says ROB, I'M REMINDING YOU YOU'RE NOT TALKING TO NECESSARILY A SCIENTIFICALLY LITERATE AUDIENCE RIGHT NOW. CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH A BIT OF THE PROCESS OF HOW YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUE MANAGED TO ISOLATE THIS VIRUS?

Robert says YEAH. MY PLEASURE. WHAT WE DID IS WE WERE ABLE TO TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF A SAMPLE THAT WE HAD TAKEN FROM A PATIENT FOR DIAGNOSTIC PURPOSES. IF YOU CAME INTO THE HOSPITAL, WE DO A SWAB OF YOUR NOSE AND IT'S IN A TYPE OF MEDIA THAT WE THEN USE FOR PCR TO IDENTIFY THE VIRUS. WE TOOK SOME OF THE REMAINING LIQUID AND THEN WE ADDED IT TO CELL LINES WHICH WE HAD A LOT OF CONFIDENCE WOULD BE ABLE TO GROW THE VIRUS AND WE HAD BEEN COMMUNICATING WITH A NUMBER OF EXPERTS WHO GAVE US A LOT OF TIPS AND POINTERS ON HOW TO IDEALLY ISOLATE THE VIRUS AND THEN WE JUST MONITORED BASICALLY FOR SOMETHING CALLED CYTOPATHIC... AND FROM THAT POINT WE HARVESTED THE VIRUS, SEQUENCED IT TO MAKE SURE THAT THE GENOME WAS THAT OF SARS-CoV-2, AND RIGHT NOW WE'RE JUST IN THE PROCESS OF GROWING UP STOCKS OF IT SO ABLE TO SHARE IT WITH OTHER LABS.

Steve says AND HOW LONG DID ALL THAT TAKE?

The caption changes to "Robert Kozak. University of Toronto."

Robert says SO WE GOT PRETTY LUCKY. WE HAD THE VIRUS ISOLATED AND FULLY SEQUENCED IN JUST UNDER 3 WEEKS.

Steve says HMM. OKAY. ALAN, TELL US, WHERE IN THE CANADIAN CONTEXT IS SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH GOING ON RIGHT NOW?

Alan says WELL, THERE'S LOTS OF DIFFERENT EFFORTS GOING ON. YOU JUST HEARD FROM ROB WHAT HIS LAB IS DOING AT SUNNYBROOK. THERE'S A LOT OF WORK OF COURSE ON VACCINE DEVELOPMENT IN QUEBEC CITY, IN VANCOUVER, IN TORONTO, YOU KNOW, UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA. THERE'S A LOT OF RESEARCH... CANADA ACTUALLY HAS ONE OF THE LEADING GROUPS ON MATHEMATICAL MODELLING OF THE PANDEMIC, AND WHERE IT'S BEEN, WHERE IT'S GOING, AND WHAT THE MITIGATING EFFORTS ARE... THE EFFECTS ARE HAVING ON SLOWING DOWN THIS DISEASE. YESTERDAY WE HAD A REALLY QUITE AMAZING ZOOM CALL OF CLOSE TO 80 SCIENTISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, EVERYTHING FROM DISEASE MODELLING TO [indiscernible]
ACTUALLY IN DEVELOPMENT, WITH CANADA'S ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY TO DISCUSS, HOW CAN A.I. BE APPLIED TO ACCELERATE THE EFFORTS IN WINNING THIS WAR AGAINST COVID-19. IT WAS QUITE AN AMAZING CALL AND I THINK A LOT OF VERY INTERESTING DISCUSSIONS TOOK PLACE AND I HOPE A LOT OF INTERESTING ACTIONS WILL TAKE PLACE AS A RESULT OF THAT CONVERSATION YESTERDAY.

Steve says LET ME DO A FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU ON THAT, ALAN. I GUESS THERE'S AN INTERESTING DYNAMIC HERE BETWEEN COLLABORATION AND COMPETITION. HOW MUCH OF EACH GOES ON RIGHT NOW?

Alan says I WOULD SAY IN THIS AREA THERE'S NO COMPETITION. I THINK THAT EVERYBODY WANTS TO WORK TOGETHER COLLABORATIVELY. EVERYBODY WANTS TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM. IT'S A WAR WITH THIS VIRUS AND I THINK IT WOULD BE SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE FOR A COMPANY OR AN ACADEMIC TO THINK ABOUT COMPETING WITH A COLLEAGUE OR SOMEBODY FROM ANOTHER UNIVERSITY OR COUNTRY. INDEED, WE HAD A LOT OF DISCUSSION YESTERDAY ABOUT, HOW DO WE OPEN UP DATA-SHARING IN COMPANIES, IN UNIVERSITIES, IN PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS AROUND THE WORLD SO THAT WE'RE ALL GETTING ALL THE DATA IN REALTIME BECAUSE, AS THE W.H.O. HAS BEEN EMPHASIZING IT'S ABOUT TESTING, TESTING, TESTING AND DATA, DATA, DATA. WE NEED THE DATA TO MOVE FORWARD AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

Steve says SURE. WOULD ANY OF THE INFORMATION THAT YOU GLEANED 17 YEARS AGO DURING THE SARS OUTBREAK HERE IN ONTARIO, WOULD ANY OF THAT BE USEFUL TO YOUR EFFORTS TODAY?

Alan says I THINK WE'VE LEARNED A HECK OF A LOT FROM THE SARS OUTBREAK OF 2003, AND THE SCIENCE HAS ADVANCED A HECK OF A LOT FROM 2003. SO WHAT WE JUST HEARD FROM ROB, THE CHAIN REACTION WHICH AMPLIFIED THE DNA AND ALLOWED THE VIRUS TO GROW AND THE BASIS OF THE DIAGNOSTIC TEST CURRENTLY, THAT DIDN'T EXIST IN 2003. THE SEQUENCING BACK THEN TOOK WEEKS AND WEEKS. TODAY IT TOOK A FEW DAYS. IT'S AN UNDERGRADUATE EXERCISE AT A UNIVERSITY. IN ADDITION, OF COURSE, WE NOW HAVE A PUBLIC HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE IN CANADA THAT WE DID NOT HAVE IN 2003, AND THAT'S BEEN CRITICAL IN TRYING TO DEAL WITH THIS PANDEMIC.

Steve says ROB, LET ME ASK YOU A QUESTION ABOUT A WORD THAT I SUSPECT PEOPLE WATCHING THIS OR LISTENING TO THIS RIGHT NOW HAD NEVER HEARD OF AS RECENTLY AS THREE OR FOUR DAYS AGO, AND THAT WORD IS CHLOROQUINE. CHLOROQUINE IS APPARENTLY THE NAME OF A DRUG THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP IN A BRIEFING JUST THE OTHER DAY MENTIONED COULD BE USEFUL TO GETTING RID OF COVID-19, AND APPARENTLY A COUPLE IN THEIR 60s IN ARIZONA TOOK IT, HAVING LISTENED TO THE PRESIDENT FOR THEIR MEDICAL ADVICE. HE DIED. SHE IS IN SERIOUS CONDITION. CAN I INFER FROM THIS THAT YOU AGREE THAT IT'S PROBABLY NOT A GREAT IDEA TO TAKE YOUR MEDICAL ADVICE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AT THE MOMENT?

Robert says YOU KNOW, I ALWAYS TAKE MY MEDICAL ADVICE FROM TRUSTED CLINICIANS. I'M FORTUNATE TO WORK WITH A NUMBER OF GREAT ONES HERE AT SUNNYBROOK AND I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR DECISIONS TO BE MADE BASED ON THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE. SO WHAT IS AVAILABLE IN PROPERLY CONTROLLED STUDIES AND TRIALS AND THAT SHOULD REALLY BE USED TO INFORM HOW PATIENTS ARE MANAGED AND TREATED.

Steve says ALAN, I'D LIKE TO GIVE THE PRESIDENT I GUESS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT HERE. WHAT WAS HE... THIS IS A HARD QUESTION... BUT WHAT WAS HE THINKING IN SUGGESTING THAT THERE MIGHT BE A SOLUTION AROUND THIS DRUG?

Alan says YOU'D HAVE TO ASK HIM, STEVE.

[LAUGHTER]

Steve says BUT DOES CHLOROQUINE HAVE PROPERTIES THAT, TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE, MIGHT BE USEFUL IN THIS SITUATION?

Alan says LOOK, IT MIGHT, AND I THINK AS ROB JUST SAID, THIS WILL BE SETTLED BY CLINICAL TRIAL, A PROPERLY DESIGNED CLINICAL TRIAL BY TRAINED CLINICIANS WHO UNDERSTAND HOW TO DO TRIALS. IT WON'T BE SETTLED AT A PRESS CONFERENCE BY ANYBODY.

Steve says ROB, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT TRYING TO FIND AN EXISTING DRUG, IF THERE IS ONE, THAT MIGHT PROVIDE SOME RELIEF?

Robert says WELL, THERE'S A NUMBER OF STEPS. THE FIRST STEP WILL OBVIOUSLY BE TO DO IT IN CELL CULTURE AND IN ANIMAL MODELS. YOU'LL WANT TO SEE THAT IT HAS AN EFFECT, PREVENTING THE VIRUS FROM REPLICATING OR KILLING THE VIRUS IN THESE MODELS AND NOT MAKING THE ANIMALS, FOR EXAMPLE, MORE SICK. WE'RE AT A BIT OF AN ADVANTAGE IF WE USE DRUGS THAT ARE ALREADY LICENSED BECAUSE WE KNOW THEY ARE LIKELY TO BE SAFE IN HUMANS. REALLY, THE CRITICAL THING IS YOU NEED GOOD CLINICAL TRIALS, AS I SAID, RUN BY PHYSICIANS WHO CAN MONITOR EVERYTHING, SIDE EFFECTS, DETERMINE THINGS LIKE DOSING, THE DOSE AND THE DURATION OF TREATMENT, AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT RUSH.

Steve says HMM. ALAN, HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU, BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THESE MATTERS, THAT THERE IS SOMETHING OUT THERE IN EXISTENCE NOW THAT COULD BE HELPFUL?

Alan says I DON'T THINK WE KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION. I CAN TELL YOU THAT THERE ARE SEVERAL MAJOR INITIATIVES, AGAIN, WHICH WE DISCUSSED YESTERDAY ON THIS ZOOM CALL, OF LOOKING AT LIBRARIES OF THOUSANDS OF COMPOUNDS AND THOUSANDS OF DRUGS, COMBINING IT WITH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, TO LOOK FOR A POTENTIAL CANDIDATES WHICH MIGHT BE USEFUL AGAINST THIS VIRUS AND BE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE IN HUMANS. SO THAT'S KIND OF A PRE-SCREENING TO ACCELERATE THE SEARCH FOR A USEFUL DRUG. THE OTHER APPROACH, WHICH IS TO LOOK AT THE GENOME OF THE VIRUS AND IDENTIFY THE GENES AND THEN USE SORT OF WHAT IS NOW SORT OF TARGETED TRADITIONAL DRUG DEVELOPMENT, LOOK AT THE STRUCTURE OF THE PROTEINS THAT'S ENCODED FOR BY THOSE GENES AND CAN WE DEVELOP A DRUG THAT WILL AFFECT THE STRUCTURE OF THAT PROTEIN AND HENCE AFFECT THEIR FUNCTION. THAT'S GOING TO TAKE LONGER BUT IT WON'T TAKE AS LONG AS IT USED TO, THE OPTIMISTIC VIEW. AND SO THERE'S A LOT OF EFFORTS, BOTH IN DRUG COMPANIES AND MY TEAM ANNOUNCED A MAJOR EFFORT IN THAT REGARD, THE GROUP AT THE CHEMISTRY DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO THAT'S USING A.I. AND CHEMISTRY TO DO THAT. SO THERE'S A LOT OF REALLY SMART PEOPLE WHO ARE APPLYING STATE-OF-THE-ART SCIENCE TO DO EXACTLY WHAT WE ALL WANT, WHICH IS TO ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF A DRUG. AND WITH THAT, STEVE, I'M GOING TO HAVE TO SIGN OFF BECAUSE I HAVE ANOTHER ZOOM CALL, I'VE GOT TO BE ON. I APOLOGIZE.

Steve says NOT AT ALL. PLEASE DON'T APOLOGIZE. WE'RE GRATEFUL FOR THE TIME YOU GAVE US. WE WENT A LITTLE OVER WHAT YOU SAID YOU COULD GIVE US. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND WE'LL TALK AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD, I HOPE.

Alan says TAKE CARE. BYE-BYE.

Steve says ALAN BERNSTEIN FROM CIFAR, CANADIAN INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED RESEARCH. I WANT TO READ SOMETHING TO YOU NOW, ROB, IF I CAN, AND HAVE YOU COMMENT ON IT. THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM A JUST-PUBLISHED BOOK ON THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY CALLED "PHARMA" AND WRITTEN BY GERALD POSNER AND HE HAS THIS TO SAY AND HE STARTS BY TALKING ABOUT ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SCIENTISTS IN AMERICA TODAY WHO MANY HAVE A LOT OF CONFIDENCE IN. WELL, LET'S GO. HERE WE GO...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The pharma speed bump." The quote reads "Doctor Fauci and officials at other government and international health organizations know that any vaccine developed in a lab will ultimately be manufactured by large pharmaceutical firms. At this critical juncture with coronavirus, no health expert would publicly criticize drug companies, but privately they complain that pharma is a major speed bump in developing lifesaving vaccines.
Pharmaceutical industry concerns about profits, as well as potential liability for adverse reactions to the inoculation, often keep them from moving quickly enough to develop or distribute effective vaccines when there emerges a novel virus, like the one that has set off the Covd-19 outbreak."
Quoted from Gerald Posner, The New York Times. March 2, 2020.

Steve says CAN I JUST GET, ROB, YOUR INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF THAT EXCERPT?

Robert says WELL, I SHOULD CAUTION, YOU'RE TALKING WITH SOMEBODY WHO IS ON THE FRONT LINES, SO THAT'S... IT SEEMS LIKE A BIGGER ISSUE THAT PERHAPS POLICYMAKERS WOULD PROBABLY HAVE MORE EXPERTISE IN. I MEAN, MY OWN PERSONAL FEELING, AND I HAVE COLLEAGUES WHO WORK IN BIG PHARMA AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES, I MEAN, I THINK FOR THIS, I DON'T THINK ANYONE IS GOING TO SLOW DOWN OR PUT UNNECESSARY SPEED BUMPS IN DEVELOPMENT. I THINK THE WORLD WANTS... THE WORLD WANTS VACCINES, THE WORLD WANTS THERAPEUTICS, SO I DON'T THINK THAT THAT'S GOING TO BE AN ISSUE AND I THINK IT IS SOMETHING THAT WE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT IS THAT WE NEVER WANT TO PUT SOMETHING OUT THERE THAT MIGHT BE... THAT MIGHT MAKE THE DISEASE MORE SEVERE OR MAY HAVE ADVERSE EFFECTS, AND I THINK THAT... I THINK BOTH SCIENTISTS AND PROBABLY PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES ARE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THIS.

Steve says I APPRECIATE THAT ANSWER. BUT I WONDER IF IT'S AN ISSUE INASMUCH AS, YOU KNOW, POTENTIALLY, IF A LIFE-SAVING DRUG IS FOUND HERE, IT'S ONLY GOING TO BE NEEDED ONCE, AND THAT'S IT. YOU KNOW, THIS COVID-19 PRESUMABLY WHEN THE NEXT PANDEMIC COMES, IT'S GOING TO BE SOMETHING ELSE. AND WHATEVER YOU FIGURE OUT TO TREAT THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE NECESSARILY EFFECTIVE THE NEXT TIME AROUND. DO YOU THEREFORE HAVE TO INCENTIVIZE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THIS, GIVEN IT'S ONE AND DONE, THERE MAY NOT BE ENOUGH INCENTIVE FOR THEM TO DO IT?

Robert says I DON'T THINK WE KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE VIRUS TO SAY IT WILL NECESSARILY BE... YOU NOW, WE DON'T KNOW WHETHER IT WILL CONTINUE TO CIRCULATE. THERE'S STILL A LOT THAT WE'RE UNSURE OF. NONETHELESS, I THINK THAT THERE ARE... THERE ARE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES THAT ARE CLEARLY INCENTIVIZED TO ADDRESS THESE PARTICULAR... MORE ACUTE OUTBREAK PANDEMIC-TYPE PROBLEMS. YOU KNOW, THIS IS WHY WE HAVE QUITE A NUMBER OF PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES RIGHT NOW PURSUING VACCINES, FOR EXAMPLE. I DON'T KNOW IT'S NECESSARILY SOMETHING WHERE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES AREN'T NECESSARILY ENGAGED AND INCENTIVIZED. I'M SURE THEY COULD WORK WITH GOVERNMENTS AND THERE ARE COALITIONS, ORGANIZATIONS LIKE CEPI, FOR EXAMPLE, WHICH ARE WORKING TO PROGRESS THIS RESEARCH AND PUT MONEY INTO VACCINE DEVELOPMENT. SO I THINK IT'S ENCOURAGING. I THINK THERE ARE LOTS OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS. IT'S ALL JUST ABOUT FIGURING OUT WHAT THE RIGHT RECIPE WOULD BE.

Steve says OKAY. SPEAKING OF PARTNERSHIPS, LET ME FOLLOW UP ON SOMETHING WE TALKED WITH ALAN ABOUT WHEN HE WAS HERE EARLIER IN OUR CONVERSATION, AND THAT IS, HE SAID THERE WAS BASICALLY NO COMPETITION BUT TERRIFIC COLLABORATION AMONG ALL THE DIFFERENT INSTITUTES HERE IN CANADA TO GET TO THE FINISH LINE ON THIS. AND I WONDER IF I COULD JUST EXPAND ON THAT QUESTION BY ASKING: DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH COOPERATION AND-OR COMPETITION IS GOING ON AMONG CANADIAN LABS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL LABS AROUND THE WORLD?

Robert says SO I THINK IN TERMS OF COOPERATION, I'VE SEEN QUITE A BIT. AGAIN, FROM MY OWN PERSONAL EXAMPLE, WHEN WE WERE LOOKING TO ISOLATE THE VIRUS, I WAS IN COMMUNICATION WITH A RESEARCH GROUP IN AUSTRALIA THAT WAS IN THE PROCESS OF DOING THE SAME THING, AND THEY WERE INCREDIBLY FORTHCOMING AND INCREDIBLY HELPFUL WITH SHARING TIPS AND POINTERS AND THINGS THAT THEY HAD DONE. SO I THINK THAT A LOT OF RESEARCHERS REALIZED THAT THIS IS NOT A CANADIAN PROBLEM. THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM UNIQUE TO ONE COUNTRY. SO BECAUSE IT'S A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, EVERYBODY IS SHARING... AND I THINK EVERYBODY REALIZES THAT THERE ISN'T JUST A NEED FOR ONE SOLUTION. SO THERE LIKELY WON'T BE JUST ONE VACCINE, THERE MIGHT BE THREE OR FOUR VACCINES THAT WILL ALL WORK EQUALLY WELL. SO IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE ALL SHARE AND THAT WE ALL WORK TOGETHER BECAUSE ULTIMATELY IT'S ALWAYS BETTER TO COLLABORATE THAN COMPETE.

Steve says GOTCHA. LET'S FINISH UP ON THIS. I WANT TO READ ONE MORE THING, AND ACTUALLY, COINCIDENTALLY, IT WAS SOMETHING ALAN BERNSTEIN WROTE 17 YEARS AGO WHEN HE WAS IN THE MIDST OF THE WHOLE SARS EPIDEMIC. I GUESS THE TITLE ON HIS PIECE WAS "GET READY FOR THE NEXT SARS," WHICH I GATHER IS WHAT WE'RE IN RIGHT NOW. HERE'S WHAT HE SAID IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL 17 YEARS AGO...

Another quote appears on screen, under the title "In hindsight." The quote reads "Newly emerging pathogens also pose unprecedented challenges for the research community. Just as it is too late to realize that we need front-line healthcare workers experienced in dealing with highly contagious pathogens, it is also too late by the time a new disease like SARS hits, to decide we need virologists, immunologists, epidemiologists, DNA sequencers and public health researchers.
The average period of training for any of the above areas of research is between 5-10 years, after a first university degree. It's like deciding you need a fire department only after a fire breaks out."
Quoted from Alan Bernstein, The Globe and Mail. June 19, 2003.

Steve says CAN I GET YOU, ROB, TO WEIGH IN ON WHETHER THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY, DECISION-MAKERS AND SO ON, IN YOUR VIEW, HAVE LIVED UP TO THE WARNING THAT ALAN BERNSTEIN PUT ON THE RECORD 17 YEARS AGO?

Robert says YOU KNOW, I THINK THIS IS SOMETHING WHERE YOU HAVE AN ENTIRE SPECTRUM. SO THERE HAVE CERTAINLY BEEN PEOPLE THAT HAVE FOLLOWED THAT AND HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF PREPARATORY WORK, WHO HAVE CONTINUED TO INVESTIGATE AND DEVELOP NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT WE ARE SEEING UTILIZED NOW. IS IT A QUESTION THAT WE COULD ALWAYS BE DOING MORE AND THAT THERE COULD BE MORE RESOURCES MADE AVAILABLE? ABSOLUTELY. THIS IS SOMETHING WHERE, AS DR. BERNSTEIN RIGHTLY POINTS OUT, THIS WILL NOT BE THE LAST EMERGING PATHOGEN THAT WE SEE, AND I THINK THAT WE WERE PROBABLY BETTER PREPARED THIS TIME BECAUSE OF SARS, AND I HOPE THAT GOING FORWARD THAT IT WILL... THAT THIS WILL SPUR GOVERNMENTS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS TO REALLY CONTINUE TO PUT THE RESEARCH AND THE RESOURCES NECESSARY FOR THIS GOING FORWARD. WE HAVE A LOT OF GREAT PEOPLE. WE HAVE A LOT OF VERY CLEVER PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY, A LOT OF WONDERFUL RESEARCHERS. IF YOU GIVE THEM THE TOOLS, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO DEVELOP THE SOLUTIONS, POTENTIALLY EVEN IN ADVANCE BEFORE WE SEE SOMETHING SERIOUS.

Steve says FINGERS CROSSED. THAT IS DR. ROBERT KOZAK, CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGIST AT SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE. ALSO CROSS-REFERENCED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO. AND DR. KOZAK, IT'S REALLY GOOD OF YOU TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME WITH US ON TVO TONIGHT. THANK YOU.

Robert says MY PLEASURE. THANK YOU.

Watch: The Race to Find a Vaccine