An unknown group known as CoroHope says it’s using funds from anonymous, crowdsourced Bitcoin donations to create a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus.
Prominent cryptocurrency members, such as Blockstream co-founder Mark Friedenbach, support the effort, saying “it’s not a scam.”
A spokesperson for CoroHope says Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are perfect for the effort, and the team is hoping to see more Bitcoiners participate. In a statement to Coindesk, the spokesperson says that the slow-moving US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes too long to approve vaccines and is hampered by too many regulatory hurdles.
“FDA-compliant manufacturing is absurdly over-regulated: paperwork for the paperwork, quadruple-checking, endless committees… just the worst of bureaucracy. So we can be more nimble.”
Nancy E. Kass, a professor of bioethics and public health at John Hopkins University, says doing something in a novel way is good for science, but shares concerns about the process.
“But it would be harmful, problematic, confusing and misleading to start saying that they have an effective vaccine if that vaccine has not undergone proper safety testing and efficacy testing.”
CoroHope agrees, and says it won’t claim a vaccine is effective without undergoing proper testing with the FDA.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Institute for Biological Research is reportedly expected to announce that they have completed development of a vaccine. Scientists say they’ve made a breakthrough in understanding the qualities of the virus. The vaccine, however, is still in a testing phase that could last months.
However, when asked about the breakthrough, Israel’s Defense Ministry denied there was one, saying that more than 50 scientists are working according to a plan that will take time. The Ministry says if and when there is a development, an announcement will be made in an orderly manner.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, spoke with Reuters to explain why rushing a vaccine for Covid-19 is dangerous.
“There is a risk of immune enhancement. The way you reduce that risk is first you show it does not occur in laboratory animals.”
Immune or vaccine enhancement happens when a vaccine makes a disease worse instead of protecting people against it.
With the urgency to stop the spread of the virus, some drugmakers are reportedly moving forward with small-scale human tests, bypassing animal testing altogether. Biotechnology company Moderna Inc, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), plans to start a trial with 45 people in Seattle this month.
“If there is immune enhancement in laboratory animals vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, that’s a showstopper.”