The first US coronavirus vaccine trial has had positive initial results, with volunteers developing protective antibodies against the virus, the company running the tests has said.
Eight people who took part in the trial developed coronavirus antibodies that give them a level of protection against the virus even higher than those who have already had COVID-19, Moderna added.
The US pharmaceutical company said that the trial indicated that the vaccine was safe and only produced minor side effects.
But onlookers urged caution, as the vaccine still has to go through several more trial stages before it can be mass produced.
Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters: “These are significant findings, but it is a Phase 1 clinical trial that only included eight people. It was designed for safety. Not for efficacy.” He added that the new data is encouraging – but many things could still go wrong between this stage and the end of the trial process.
Volunteers received a 100 mcg dose and a 25 mcg dose. Moderna said that the 100 mcg dose appeared to be more efficient than the weaker version.
The next stage is the second trial phase, while the company hopes to progress to the third phase by July. US regulators have fast-tracked the review process in the hopes of producing a vaccine quickly.
Moderna has partnered with Swiss biotech firm Lonza to boost production efforts if vaccine trials are successful – enabling them to make up to 1 billion doses per year.
Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said: “We are investing to scale up manufacturing so we can maximise the number of doses we can produce to help protect as many people as we can from SARS-CoV-2.”
The US government has invested heavily in Moderna’s vaccine, giving $483 million in funding in April. And the company’s share price rose by more than 22 per cent when news of the trial’s results emerged on Monday.
Moderna’s vaccine is among more than 100 being developed worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation. Work on a vaccine at Oxford University in the UK is underway, with a human trial starting last week.
Business secretary Alok Sharma said on Sunday: “The first clinical trial of the Oxford vaccine is progressing well with all phase one participants having received their vaccine dose on schedule earlier this week. The speed at which Oxford University has designed and organised these complex trials is genuinely unprecedented.”
The Government is aiming for 30 million coronavirus vaccine doses to be made available by September if UK trials succeed, he added.
But there may never be a successful coronavirus vaccine, experts have warned on many occasions.
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