US Begins First Human Trial Of Coronavirus Vaccine

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WASHINGTON – The first human trial to evaluate a candidate vaccine against the new corona­virus has begun in Seattle, US health officials said Monday, raising hopes in the global fight against the disease.

But it may be another year to 18 months before it becomes avail­able, once it has passed more trial phases to prove it works and is safe.

The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists and collaborators at biotechnology company Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The open-label trial will en­roll 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approxi­mately 6 weeks,” the NIH said. “The first participant received the investigational vaccine today.”

Funding was also provided by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidem­ic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments against the coronavirus disease, known as CO­VID-19, which has infected more than 175,000 people across the world since it was first identified in central China in late December.

It has claimed 7,000 deaths, according to an AFP tally, most in China followed by Italy.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the NIH, using the technical name for the virus that is believed to have originated in bats.

“This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The Seattle trial will study the impact of different doses delivered by intramuscular injection in the upper arm, with participants monitored for side-effects like soreness or fever.

Coronaviruses are spheri­cal and have spikes protruding from their surface, giving them a crown-like appearance. The spike binds to human cells, allowing the virus to gain entry.

The Moderna candidate vac­cine carries the genetic informa­tion of this spike in a substance called “messenger RNA.”

Injecting human tissue with the spike’s messenger RNA makes it grow inside the body, thereby eliciting an immune response without having actually infected a person with the full-blown virus.

– Global race –

Pharmaceuticals and research labs around the world are racing to develop both treatments and vac­cines to the new coronavirus.

An antiviral treatment called remdesivir, made by US-based Gilead Sciences, is already in the final stages of clinical trials in Asia and doctors in China have reported it has proven effective in fighting the disease.

But only randomized trials allow scientists to know for sure whether it really helps or whether patients would have recovered without it. Another US pharma called Inovio, which is creating a DNA-based vaccine, has said it will enter clinical trials next month.

Regeneron is trying to isolate coronavirus-fighting antibodies that can be administered intra­venously to confer temporary im­munity, and hopes to start human trials by summer.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are mild, 14 per­cent are severe and about five per­cent result are critical, resulting in severe respiratory illness that causes the lungs to fill with fluid which in turn prevents oxygen from reaching organs.

Patients with mild cases recover in a week or two while severe cases can take six or more weeks.

Recent estimates suggest about one percent of all infected people die.

China Approves Coronavirus Vaccine For Clinical Trials – State Media

China has authorised clinical trials on its first vaccine developed to combat the new coro­navirus, according to a report in the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

The researchers are led by Chen Wei, of China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, it said.

Russia begins testing poten­tial coronavirus vaccine

Russian scientists have be­gun to test vaccine prototypes for the new coronavirus, and plan to present the most effective one by June, a laboratory chief at a state biotech institute said.

Russia has reported 93 cases of infection but no deaths, according to official numbers published Tuesday.

“The prototypes have been created. We are starting labora­tory testing on animals, to en­sure effectiveness and safety,” Ilnaz Imatdinov of the Vector In­stitute in Siberia told the Vesti Novosibirsk television channel on Monday.

“In June we will present one or two showing the best results.”

Vector Institute is a state virology and biotechnology centre in Novosibirsk, which previously worked on vaccines for the Ebola virus.

According to the state health watchdog, which oversees the in­stitute, Russia has tested about 116,000 people for the coronavirus since March 16.

The country has announced it is closing borders to all foreign na­tionals beginning Wednesday as part of measures to halt the spread of the virus.

Takeda sees speedy approval of coronavirus treatment

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. said its plasma-derived therapy against coronavirus currently in development has the potential to be among the first approved treat­ments for the deadly pathogen.

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