A team of experts led by a Northern Ireland scientist is at the centre of efforts in the race to produce a vaccine for Covid-19.
While some trials - operating under the "warp speed" of the US Government - are poised to start mass testing on humans, the University of Pittsburgh team led by Lurgan-born Dr Paul Duprex is using a more tried and tested method as its platform.
The Center for Vaccine Research at the university - renowned as the home base of Dr Jonas Salk, the father of polio immunisation - is using the measles vaccine as its platform.
Most of those on the fast track to trials are based on biotechnology, which has never been tried before.
But the Pittsburgh team is grafting genetic fragments of SARS-CoV-2 into the existing measles vaccine, a product which has proven to be safe and effective for hundreds of millions of people for decades.
Platform-based vaccines have great promise - for example, one has been licensed to protect against Ebola and the Oxford group is working on a variation of that approach, the Northern Ireland scientist said.
Genomes are combined to create a recombitant, or genetically modified virus, which should allow antibodies to be generated by immune cells. The Pittsburgh team is already testing their candidate vaccine in animals to see if it leads to the generation of antibodies and if it protects from Covid-19 disease. This will be followed by small scale, then midsize and finally large-number human trials. Safety is paramount in this process, Dr Duprex said.
"Many teams are racing towards large-scale human trials, the diversity of approaches they are taking is stunning and is a testament to the creative, basic science being undertaken all across the world by virologists and vaccinologists trained for this moment in history," the scientist said.
Five were named as part of 'Operation Warp Speed' to develop a vaccine by early next year. They are the US Government's preferred candidates and will receive extra federal funding and resources.
AstraZeneca, which is working with Oxford University, and Boston-based Moderna will be among the first to carry out mass trials this summer. The latter is based on biotechnology. In total, there are currently 95 vaccine trials, with 10 in human testing, mostly in the US, Europe, India and China.
Immunologist and deputy editor of the journal Science Advances, Dr Douglas J. Green, has said that bypassing any essential clinical trial stages for any vaccine could be "catastrophic". He argues scientists must weigh up these "risks" against the potential benefits, according to a report in the Medical News Today.
Dr Duprex agrees that moving too fast throws up potential pitfalls, but that the idea now is to move quickly "to test things to failure". "We will need more than one vaccine - multiple vaccines - and that is why it is important to have lots of runners," he said.
"Competition is a good thing, it drives innovation. There will be someone gets a vaccine, but it is not going to be one."
The vast amounts of money being thrown at private companies, particularly by the US Government, is prompting questions over whether any should profit. It is "perfectly reasonable" for taxpayers to ask whether these vaccines will be provided at cost when so much of their money is being spent, and that any should be available throughout the developing world, said Dr Duprex.
He noted also that work on producing vaccines for SARS-1 and MERS largely halted when those viruses were brought under control, essentially because there was no immediate profit motive. Yet if work had continued, and successful vaccines developed, they would have been invaluable as platforms to develop one for Covid-19, Dr Duprex said.
That was a "big mistake" and one that cannot be made again, particularly as another coronavirus, maybe even more deadly, is likely to emerge in the future, the scientist said.
While there are favoured candidates, Dr Duprex said that is not stopping others from working just as hard, and trying to find funding elsewhere. A consortium that included the Pittsburgh centre, Themis and the Institut Pasteur received $5 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which was founded by the governments of Norway and India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum.