As the worldwide hunt to find a vaccine for the coronavirus continues, a Galway man is at the the forefront of the search.
Dr Gordon Joyce from Moycullen is Chief of Structural Biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington DC and is leading a group which has spent years researching other viruses such as HIV and Ebola.
Dr Joyce grew up in Moycullen, where he went to national school before attending the Bish in Galway. His father Michael is from Leitir Mealláin in Connemara.
Speaking on Iris Aniar on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta about his work, Dr Joyce explained that there are one hundred groups across the world working on a vaccine, and that some clinical trials have started.
“We don’t know yet which vaccine might work,” he said, “we need a vaccine that’s safe and gives immunity.”
“We know the vaccine has worked in animals, but we don’t know yet if it gives immunity in people… There’s a vaccine here in the US and another in China.
“When the results of the trials come back, we can see then if it’s effective, and go on then to mass production, but we don’t know as yet…”
He said that developing the vaccine would take time, but couldn’t give an answer about how long it would take.
“That’s a difficult question, we don’t know yet. We’ve been working here for three months on the vaccine.
“There are groups across the world working on it… A year or more probably. In normal times, developing a vaccine can take five or ten years… but with COVID-19, I think it will be more rapid.”
Describing the huge collective effort, he added: “There are normally ten or twenty people in my group, but now there are two hundred people from the institute all working on developing the vaccine.
“But we’re not working in isolation … we’re talking to health institutes and pharmaceutical companies every day, sharing information, with phonecalls at 11 pm and 4 am sometimes, talking every day.”