As the world races to find a vaccine or a cure for the coronavirus, antimalarial drugs, HIV medications, flu vaccines and arthritis treatments are all being tested. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the latest medical efforts to combat the pandemic. 

Teams of scientists across the world are working around the clock to either develop a new drug or repurpose an existing medication to halt the spread of the virus.

Viruses are tiny parasitic bits of genetic material that replicate inside another organism. Vaccines for viruses such as measles are typically made from a weakened form of the virus. But this process can take years.

Scientists are now fast-tracking results and sidestepping normal scientific steps, such as animal testing, to find drugs that will treat and kill the virus that causes COVID-19.

How close are we to a vaccine?


The first country to experience the virus and also the first to start searching for vaccines and cures, China is understandably leading the field in the hunt for a vaccine. On December 31 last year, China alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) to several cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in Hubei province. The virus was at that point unknown.

To create an original vaccine, the Chinese company Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology is working with a US biotech company called Inovio Pharmaceuticals. They are in the process of developing a “DNA vaccine” called INO-4800.

This vaccine is already in preclinical trial. It involves directly injecting genetic material into a person to trigger a stronger immune response, so they are better equipped to stop an infection.


On January 16, Japan became the first country to confirm a coronavirus case outside China.

Fujifilm may be best known for its photographic products, but the Japanese company also makes a drug called Favipiravir (capitalized). This was initially intended to treat new strains of the flu. However, it appears to be proving effective in treating coronavirus patients, particularly those with lighter symptoms.


Germany’s BioNTech has been one of the major players in European vaccine developments. It announced on Monday that it is developing an experimental vaccine, working with Fosun Pharma in China. On Tuesday, it confirmed a collaboration with America’s largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, to develop the drug outside of China. They hope to be in a position to start testing the new vaccine early next month.