Can We Develop Products as Fast as the COVID Vaccines?

An Interview with Educo Life Sciences Trainer Nadine Ritter

We interviewed Educo Life Sciences trainer Nadine Ritter to find out why drugs cannot be developed as quick as the COVID vaccine. Nadine explains all the factors that led to the fastest development of a drug in history.

Watch the full interview below:


Why Can’t We Develop Products as Fast as the COVID Vaccines?

That is a fabulous question that I’ve heard answered incorrectly so many times so I’m very happy to explain that because even in my own family they would ask me “why can’t you do that fast all the time?” Well, there were some very critical circumstances that aligned that we as a society decided we were happy with.  

One, we decided that we would throw unlimited amounts of money at the effort, so it was literally a space race that the public funded. Sponsors who received the money were told; so not worry about clinical trials, do not worry about making small scale material, medium scale material, commercial scale material. Sponsors were told to straight to commercial. This drastically reduced the timelines by years. Sponsors were making products at scale, taking the risk that it was going to work. The approach was to no use it until we prove it, but don’t worry about those intermediate stages. That was a massive decision that jump started things by years.

The second thing that happened was the decks were cleared. Every CMC person that I knew that was working in that area worked 24/7, 365 days a year at the exclusion of everything else they were working on. The same thing happened on the side of the regulators that were working in the vaccine area for reviews and inspections. Everyone’s decks were cleared so that they could spend nothing but 24/7 365 turning these reviews around as fast as possible and doing these inspections in real time as fast as possible.

Another factor is that they commandeered all the contract manufacturing, all the raw materials, everything in the supply chain, and so that meant other products that were critically needed in development got paused. But we as a society needed these vaccines as quickly as possible and so it was done. Can we do that again? Yeah, if those circumstances are met again, but I don’t believe that they will be. Every disease is important to somebody, but as a society we have very few diseases that have hit us as quickly and as dramatically and as seriously as the pandemic did.

I do not want people to misunderstand that the industry is not delaying the development of anything. During the COVID vaccine development, it was given carte blanche with time, resources and money, to get it done as fast as possible and it happened. Just like the space race, it happened, but it will take something like that again I think, to get those stars to align which I hope it doesn’t.

And no quality corners were cut, there were some mistakes that occurred, but the checks and balances in the quality system caught it and nothing went out the door that had any risk to patient safety or health. The systems did their job, but when you bring in 600 people a month to hire them new, it’s going to take a little bit of time for them to get up to speed, even if they are following written procedures, we’re all humans and a lot of us were scared and stressed.

The regulators, I mean some of the folks that I know that we’re in the field sacrificed their entire personal life to doing their job. They are the gatekeepers to the public, and they stepped up to the challenge and did a heroic job. It was amazing, we had many different industries working but there’s only a handful of people in the world that review vaccines and inspect.

I do not want people to think that we can do it again that fast. I see it all the time, especially in seminars with VPs or investment bankers. Yes you can but are you prepared to do what it took during the pandemic? Because I don’t think so, it’s an inconceivable amount of money.


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