mRNA vaccine against novel coronavirus goes on a trial in Seattle

A clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus commenced this Monday in the U.S. If successful, this could mean an end to the current global pandemic of COVID-19 infections, feel experts.

Moderna Announces First Participant Dosed in NIH-led Phase 1 Study of mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1273) Against Novel Coronavirus. Image Credit: PhotobyTawat / Shutterstock
Moderna Announces First Participant Dosed in NIH-led Phase 1 Study of mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1273) Against Novel Coronavirus. Image Credit: PhotobyTawat / Shutterstock

Where?

Government officials have revealed that the first participant would receive an experimental dose of a vaccine that would protect against the novel coronavirus. The trial is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is being conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

How long before it is safe for regular use?

With the high infectivity of the virus, there has been a global pandemic of COVID-19 infections. Amidst this, the public health officials had earlier announced that a new vaccine against the virus would take around 18 months to complete clinical trials and be available in the market.

What is being done in the new trial?

This trial, however, comes at an accelerated pace compared to the earlier speculations, say, experts. For this trial, 45 healthy young volunteers have signed up. They will be administered with different doses of the vaccine that has been prepared by joint efforts from NIH and Moderna Inc.

“This study is the first step in the clinical development of an mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, and we expect it to provide important information about safety and immunogenicity. We are actively preparing for a potential Phase 2 study under our own IND,” said Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer at Moderna. “We are grateful to NIH for their ongoing collaboration and to CEPI for funding the initial manufacturing of mRNA-1273 and are proud to be included with the many companies, worldwide health agencies and NGOs working on a possible response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.”

Risks involved

One of the greatest fears of a vaccine trial is the risk of getting the infection against which the vaccine is administered. Researchers said that there is no risk with this new vaccine because it does not contain the live virus. The aim of this trial is to test if the vaccine is safe for use at the doses they are tried. If successfully proven to be safe, the vaccine could be trialed in more extensive clinical trials, say researchers.

With the rapidly spreading virus across the world, there is a race among major labs to prepare a vaccine that is effective in preventing the infection. Different forms of the vaccine are being developed. Some of these are shots that are developed using cutting edge technologies to create more potent vaccines. Some labs are working in developing temporary vaccines that could protect the health of the individual for a couple of months before vaccines that could provide long term protection are developed.

Another vaccine on the cards

Inovio Pharmaceuticals is also working on its vaccine and trying to see if it is effective and safe. At the preliminary stages, these researchers are also working to understand the safety of the vaccine. This vaccine would be tried on healthy volunteers at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the centers at Kansas City, Missouri. Inovio Pharmaceuticals simultaneously would also test the safety of the vaccine in China and South Korea.

Expert speak

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that despite the beginning of the safety trials, it could still be “about a year to a year and a half” before a vaccine could be available for use among the general population. He explained that tens of thousands of individuals would need to be tested before the vaccine could be declared as safe and genuinely protective against the infection.

Fauci added that with the current state the travel restrictions within the United States would remain as such for a while now. Hardest-hit states of Washington and California would still be cordoned off. Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of coronavirus said, “I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.”

Current status

At present, globally, over 181,000 individuals have tested positive for novel coronavirus infection, and there are no proven treatment regimens for the treatment of the disease. The disease has killed over 7,100 people around the world. In China, researchers have been using a combination of drugs used against HIV/AIDS against COVID-19. A drug effective against Ebola infection Remdesivir has also shown some success in fighting coronavirus infection. University of Nebraska Medical Center has been conducting studies to look at the efficacy in treating COVID-19 among passengers who were aboard a cruise ship in Japan called the Diamond Princess.

According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 infections are of pandemic nature at present, and the disease typically manifests as fever, sore throat, headache, neck pain, cough, and cold, etc. The mild illness remains for around two weeks, and most recover completely. Severe illness may take three to six weeks to resolve. The disease is particularly dangerous for the elderly and those other ailments and immunosuppression.

Sources:
Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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