The first clinical trial to test the candidate vaccine against the latest coronavirus started in Seattle, US health officials said Monday, boosting expectations for the global fight against the disease.
But it could be another year to 18 months before it is usable until further phases of testing have been done to ensure that it operates and is safe.
The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and has been developed by scientists and partners of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Moderna, a biotechnology corporation based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“The open-label experiment will include 45 healthy adult volunteers aged 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks,” the NIH said. “Yesterday, the first patient got an investigational vaccine.”
Support was also received by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
There are currently no licensed coronavirus vaccines or therapies known as COVID-19, which have infected more than 175,000 people around the world since it was first detected in Central China at the end of December.
According to the AFP, 7,000 deaths have been reported, most of them in China, led by Italy.
“Finding a safe and reliable vaccine to avoid infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an immediate public health concern,” said Anthony Fauci, director of NIH infectious diseases, using the scientific name for the virus that is thought to have originated in bats.
“This phase 1 study, conducted at record speed, is a significant first step towards achieving this goal.” The Seattle study will study the influence of various doses of intramuscular injection in the upper arm, with patients being checked for side effects such as soreness or fever.
The Moderna candidate vaccine contains the genetic material of this spike in a substance called “messenger RNA.” Injection of human tissue with the spike messenger RNA allows it to expand within the body, resulting in an immune reaction without infecting an individual with a full-blown virus.
Pharmaceuticals and testing centers around the world are working to create new coronavirus drugs and vaccines.
Antiviral therapy called remdesivir, developed by the US-based Gilead Sciences is now in the final stages of clinical trials in Asia, and doctors in China have announced that it has proved to be successful in the fight against the disease.
But only clinical experiments make it possible for scientists to say for sure that it actually works or that people will survive without it.
Another US pharmacist named Inovio, who is developing a DNA-based vaccine, has announced that it will be entering clinical trials next month.