- Drug companies are preparing for Omicron to be the next major challenge of the pandemic.
- The newest variant’s mutations could weaken vaccine protection, though that remains unknown.
- While much is still uncertain, the pharmaceutical industry is already planning its counterattack.
Vaccine and drug developers are preparing for the Omicron variant to turn into the next major challenge of the pandemic.
The new variant, first identified in South Africa, has already spread to at least 10 countries around the world, with confirmed cases in places such as the UK, Australia, Germany, and Canada. The World Health Organization labeled the new strain a “variant of concern” on Friday, and the world is now waiting on laboratory research to clarify just how threatening Omicron may be.
The biggest questions are still unanswered, particularly how the leading vaccines and treatments hold up against Omicron. Experts say they are worried because this new variant carries more than 30 mutations to its spike protein, the target for the vaccines and many treatments. The fear is these changes to the virus may help it evade protection from vaccination or an antibody infusion.
“On the face of it, it looks pretty gnarly,” Robert Nelsen, a managing director of Arch Venture Partners, told Insider.