First Coronavirus Vaccine Human Trial Begins
The first human trial of a COVID-19 vaccine started in the US on Monday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced.
The experimental vaccine, developed by biotech company Moderna Inc, was “launched in record speed” according to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID.
First, they will test whether the vaccine is safe or not. Then it will be determined how well it works. Even if it works, it will take a year for the vaccine to be ready.
Researchers have reportedly been able to develop this because of other coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS and MERS.
The tests are being conducted at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.
Moderna, which has developed the vaccine, uses genetic material or messenger RNA. It reportedly has nine other vaccines in various stages of development, including ones for viruses linked to respiratory diseases.
The vaccine, mRNA-1273, is being tried on 45 healthy adults aged between 18 and 55. Each will be given two shots, 28 days apart. Three different levels of doses will be tested in the participants. It will be observed if the vaccine stimulates the immune system to make antibodies that can stop the virus from replicating and prevent the illness it causes.
Four participants were given the vaccine on Monday. Four more will be given on Tuesday. Then they will be monitored before other participants are given, according to a report in the New York Times.
If the vaccine reports to be safe in a few weeks, Moderna will seek permission from the Food and Drug Administration to go to the next phase of testing. The next phase of testing will ensure efficacy and verify safety.
The company has a manufacturing plant in Norwood, where it is already installing new equipment so as to produce millions of doses.
According to New York Times reports, researchers at Moderna and NIAID found “the sequence that codes for a spike-like protein on the surface of the virus that attaches to human cells, helping the virus to invade them”.
The spike sequence is what is required to produce the vaccine and not the virus itself. Moderna is synthesizing the stretch of RNA required for the vaccine and embeds it in a lipid nanoparticle.
The first batch of vaccines were ready by February 24. The Food and Drug Administration gave permission on March 4 to begin the trial.