Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Coronavirus vaccines need shark livers?

Via the New York Times, this interesting article:

Several companies in the race for a coronavirus vaccine have stumbled upon a new and unexpected hurdle: activists protesting the use of a substance that comes from sharks in their products.

The oily compound, called squalene, is churned out by shark livers and has immunity-boosting powers, which has led several companies to use it as an ingredient in vaccines. A group called Shark Allies has mounted a campaign calling on the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to halt the sourcing of the compound from sharks, warning that mass distribution of a coronavirus vaccine could require harvesting tissue from more than 500,000 sharks....

...Shark livers are considered among the best sources of the compound. Between 63 million and 273 million sharks die at the hands of humans each year, and liver oil is harvested from at least a couple million of them, according to Catherine Macdonald, a shark biologist in Florida.

Two of the companies under the scrutiny of Shark Allies are GlaxoSmithKline and Seqirus, which each manufacture adjuvants that contain about 10 milligrams of squalene per dose. Those ingredients are found in a number of coronavirus vaccines currently being tested in humans, including products from Sanofi, Medicago and Clover Biopharmaceuticals, which have all partnered with GSK.

According to one estimate, between 2,500 and 3,000 sharks are needed per metric ton of squalene. Shark Allies extrapolated from these statistics to arrive at their widely quoted numbers tabulating the potential ecological toll on sharks.

So there's ~400 grams of squalene per shark? Who knew? (Sounds like no one really knows, and it depends on the shark) The sharks have gotta like Amyris: 

She pointed to Amyris, a California-based company, which has been pursuing a synthetic alternative.

Will be interesting to see if Amyris succeeds...

1 comment:

  1. "I don’t think we should demonize the people trying to save our lives,” Ms. Graham said. “There are much larger, more important hills to die on."

    Good words to live by.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20