A stack of syringes.

UW–Madison researchers lead effort to create a universal coronavirus vaccine

By Kelly April Tyrrell, UW–Madison

Viruses can be wily adapters, changing their identities to find new hosts and thwart efforts to stop them. That’s why University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers and their collaborators are making progress toward developing universal vaccines against some the planet’s most harmful pathogens, including the virus family responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last fall, the National Institutes of Health announced it was investing in three teams working to develop a vaccine that would simultaneously work against a broad range of coronaviruses. Among them is a research collaboration, the Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine consortium, led by UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor of Pathobiological Sciences Yoshihiro Kawaoka.

“This pan-coronavirus vaccine is basically preparing for the future,” Kawaoka says.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, belongs to a larger family of coronaviruses that tend to make humans and other animals sick, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS), both of which are also responsible for epidemics. At least four other coronaviruses infect most people by age 10, causing little more than annoying colds. Read more …