A coronavirus vaccine is "almost certain" to be found thanks to the "collective worldwide brainpower" being devoted to the search, according to one of the world's leading investors in biotechnology companies.
Geoffrey Hsu of Orbimed, the globe's largest dedicated healthcare investment company, said one or more of the almost 150 vaccines being tested were almost sure to prove effective. The same applied to some of the 257 potential treatments undergoing trial.
"The chances are close to 100 per cent that one or more will show some level of efficacy," he told The Telegraph. "So many approaches on vaccines and treatments are being tried – think about the collective brainpower being applied worldwide."
He pointed out that 17 candidate vaccines were in clinical trials and another 132 in the preclinical phase, according to the World Health Organisation, while separate figures from the Milken Institute put the number of treatments in clinical or preclinal trials at 257.
Mr Hsu said a new disease would normally prompt far fewer attempts to find a vaccine. "It's usually just a handful – maybe five or so. Definitely not hundreds."
He said it was not necessary for a vaccine to be 100 per cent effective. "The seasonal flu vaccine is only 40-60* per cent effective but this is sufficient to reduce the spread of the disease," he said. "An effectiveness of 50-70 per cent will slow transmission down. And those people who still get the disease despite having been vaccinated will tend to get it less severely.
"The holy grail is 100 per cent effectiveness but I don't think you need it." On Wednesday America's Food & Drug Administration said it wanted any widely deployed vaccine to have at least 50pc efficacy.
Mr Hsu acknowledged that a vaccine had already been approved in China for use among its military personnel and said similar "emergency use" approval of a vaccine for use only in certain situations was likely in America before the end of the year. Approval for use in the general population would follow later.
On Wednesday Pfizer, the giant American drugmaker, and a German company called BioNTech announced "early positive data from an ongoing phase 1/2 study of an mRNA-based vaccine candidate" for Covid-19.
*Amended from 30-50 per cent, as published originally