New variants of COVID-19 are on the way - but not knowing how the pandemic started puts the world at risk of future outbreaks, experts warn.
"As the virus spreads, it is rapidly mutating," Moderna's chief scientific officer, Melissa Moore, said at a recent virtual investor event. "Some of these new viral strains appear to be even more transmissible than the original strain...We already know that some of these new strains are less susceptible to neutralization by our current vaccine."
She said the company was always testing its vaccine against new variants. However, their appearance is delayed by this intricate process.
In a separate TV interview, Peter Hotez, joint director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said not knowing how the pandemic started put the world at risk of future outbreaks.
"There's going to be COVID-26 and COVID-32 unless we fully understand the origins of COVID-19," Hotez said on NBC's "Meet The Press."
According to Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who currently serves on the board of Pfizer Inc., information supporting the notion the virus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, has increased, and the country hasn't presented evidence to contradict that notion.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in an unexpected statement last week, called for a new probe into the emergence of the virus.
Biden said U.S. intelligence agencies were split on whether the virus crossed the species barrier from a natural reservoir or was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He ordered agencies "redouble their efforts" and report back in 90 days.
The shortest time from the detection of a variant of concern to preclinical immunogenicity readout against a panel of pseudo viruses, according to Guillaume Stewart-Jones, a Moderna scientist who works as associate director of antigen design and selection on their infectious disease team, is approximately two to three months.
While it is widely assumed most varieties won't evolve into anything more dangerous than the current virus, there are no assurances.
The origins of the weren't completely revealed in a World Health Organization report released in March, but a laboratory breach was ruled out. At the time, the world health body called for more investigation.
"As far as the organization is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.