Inside the labs at Colorado State University, scientists are working around the clock to develop two different solutions in the fight against COVID19 — a vaccine and a disinfectant.
Both tools use science that relies on a previous discovery that a combination of riboflavin, or vitamin B2, and UV light could successfully kill certain viruses in whole blood. Researchers have been able to prove in lab settings that the combination can kill SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Engineers are using that technology to create disinfecting solutions for surfaces in large spaces like classrooms and stadiums. The combination, researchers say, is more gentle than other alternatives.
"There are a number of disinfectants like bleach, alcohol, other chemicals. And we view this as one of the potential tools in the toolbox. If you think about this, bleach is a fairly caustic chemical. There's a lot of surfaces that you can't use that on," Bryan Willson, Energy Institute Executive Director at Colorado State University told Newsy. "This could be an application for very frequent application and sterilization."
Now they’re testing device efficacy specifics and how manufacturing scalability would work. In another lab, researchers are investigating the holy grail of COVID-19 research — a vaccine. Raymond Goodrich, one of the researchers who made the B2 and UV light discovery, tells Newsy they’ve been able to grow the virus, and prove the B2 and UV light stops the virus from growing, or replicating. Their next step is to test in animals.
"We can grow the virus up to having 10 million virus particles per milliliter of solution. You want those very highly concentrated preparations to be able to do the inactivation. We'd like to get to where we have 100 million virus particles in a single milliliter, but the 10 million per milliliter is enough that we could move to the next stage of doing the inactivation study," Goodrich told Newsy.
Goodrich’s hypothesis is different from a vaccine in early clinical trials in Seattle, tested by biotech company Moderna. Scientists say having different vaccine and therapeutic researchers tackle the problem from all the angles is a good thing, increasing the chances for an early breakthrough.
But experts caution that it could take a year to a year and a half for a vaccine to be widely available, which would still be at a record-setting pace.