A GLASGOW scientist is leading a race against the clock to develop a vaccine that will prevent the deadly coronavirus.

As the death toll from the disease, which originated in China, now passes 80, Dr Kate Broderick’s US laboratory is working overtime on a vaccine.

Dr Broderick, senior vice president of research and development at Inovio, said the laboratory’s computer technology has allowed scientists to design an inoculation far more quickly than by traditional means.

The lab was also responsible for creating a vaccine in response to the Zika virus in just seven months – an unprecedented achievement.

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But the Glasgow University graduate says it is hoped a vaccine for coronavirus will be ready in only four months, nearly halving the time of the previous achievement. The 42-year-old said: “Coronavirus was first reported on Hogmanay so it has only been around for less than a month. Because our company specialises in infectious diseases, obviously we were very interested.

“A week after the virus was first reported to the World Health Organisation, the Chinese authorities published the viral sequence online. That allowed us to begin designing the vaccine straight away and we managed to have a vaccine design overnight.

“Your typical vaccines are generally made in chicken eggs but that takes a really long time to manufacture – it takes years.

“Our technology makes creating a vaccine much, much faster – and we’re working as fast as we can because we are in the middle of an outbreak.”

Inovio, in San Diego, California, received a $9 million funding grant from the London-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), part of the Wellcome Trust. This week, it is planned, the vaccine will go to the next stage of development and be tested on animals. If that is successful the vaccine will be trialled on humans before being ready for general use.

Dr Broderick said the knowledge that the death rate from the virus is rising is a spur to the scientists working in the laboratory.

She said: “We are going to start testing the vaccine this week on animals, the speed of which is really unprecedented.

“This type of situation [working during an outbreak] makes you really not be able to sleep for weeks on end.

“We know people are dying from this virus. As a life scientist, all I trained to do is make an impact on population health.

“So yes, knowing that people are dying and becoming very ill while we are working on this vaccine absolutely affects how we are working and the speed at which we are working.”

CEPI previously partnered with Inovio to develop a vaccine for MERS, also caused by a coronavirus, which has been used on humans and will shortly be tested in Saudi Arabia, where the virus is still active.

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Inovio also worked on vaccines for Ebola and the Zika virus, a disease mainly spread by mosquitoes.

Dr Broderick added: “From the time we got the DNA sequence for Zika to when we used it on our first patient was seven months, which was a record.

“For this outbreak, we are looking to get it in four months, which is almost half the time.”

So far there have been no confirmed cases in the UK but last night the death toll in China had risen to 81 with almost 3,000 confirmed cases. Some 73 people have been tested in the UK, although all tests have