Imagine this newsflash prior to COVID-19: "Based on solid evidence scientists are warning that a virus is likely to emerge with enormous destructive power that could kill millions of people"--and the comment, "Let's wait and see."
But that's exactly what happened. We waited and now we see--and it's gruesome
So Mayor de Blasio, your statement on April 30th at Governor Andrew Cuomo's briefing that COVID-19 caught us with "a curve ball" is wrong. It was a screwball.
First, there was SARS, then MERS, followed by Ebola and Zika. In each case, we feared a fastball virus that would deliver a strikeout blow. Miraculously, they turned out to be slowballs--some slower than others--and faded.
What was our response? Submitting to the caution to "wait and see" we foolishly walked away from the plate instead of stepping up and knocking the slowball out of the ballpark. Not only did we walk away from the plate, but we also curtailed research on how to prevent slowballs from turning into high-speed fastballs. This despite warnings by the best pitching scouts that super-fastballs would be coming. They knew this because they were tracking a generation of super-star newcomers warming up in bullpens across the globe.
As Dr. Amira A. Roess, Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at George Mason University told me: "When the virus goes away the funding goes away." Pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to pursue research if they can't count on a financial profit. That's why some have backed out of joining the search for effective treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19, fearing the cost and possible financial loss.
Further verifying Dr. Roess's comment, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals has resumed research on a compound to treat COVID-19 first developed in 2003 to treat SARS. Preliminary data had shown promise. The compound proved to be "a potent inhibitor" of "a critical enzyme that a coronavirus needs to replicate." Now revived, it will take at least three months before human trials begin. In a similar case, on May 1st the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval for Gilead Science's drug Remdesivir to treat patients severely ill with Covid-19--with the formal approval to come after more clinical trials, according to a report in The New York Times. Remdesiver too was developed earlier but dropped despite evidence in 2007 that it could kill viruses. Research on it was revived only when the government recently stepped in with funding.
If we don't act now, as scientists continue to warn, we will likely again be "blindsided" by a screwball that is even more devastating than COVID-19.
"Act now" means establishing NOW a minimum of a trillion-dollar startup fund--and additional money as needed--for an international effort like the World War II Manhattan Project under a single command that would initiate, organize, and oversee all research on pandemics: The Planetary Pandemic Project supported by proportional assessments of every country on the planet
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