DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Scientists fully believe that there will be another virus that threatens the health of everyone on Earth, just as COVID-19 has. What’s different today is that people will not be sitting idly by waiting for it to happen.

“What we did not learn from the original SARS epidemic in 2003 and the other coronavirus epidemic called MERS in 2011, 2012 was that we should have gone on as a field and developed vaccines and put them on the shelf so that if there’s another coronavirus epidemic, like with COVID, we would be prepared,” said Dr. Barton Haynes, the director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

In May, DHVI announced it had developed a vaccine that can combat future SARS-related viruses.

“It is also active against a number of animal viruses that have the capacity, we believe, maybe in the future, to jump to humans and cause an outbreak,” Haynes said.

Now, with help of a $17.5 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, they are moving on to the next generation of pan-coronavirus vaccines that can even potentially help fight the common cold.

But, how can these vaccines be effective if it isn’t known what the next virus is? Haynes said to look at it like plug-and-play.

“Where one can swap in different pieces of different coronaviruses and adapt it as the need arises.”

The team is also comprised of Ralph Baric, Ph.D., professor in the departments of epidemiology, microbiology, and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Bette Korber, Ph.D., of the Los Alamos National Laboratory; Drew Weissman, M.D., Ph.D., professor in vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania; and a co-creator of the mRNA vaccine technology used in current COVID-19 vaccines and Sampa Santra, Ph.D., of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

DHVI has also received large federal contracts or grants to research, develop and test vaccines for HIV and influenza.