Illustrating the incredibly rapid pace of COVID-19 vaccine development, biotechnology company Moderna has just revealed interim data from its Phase 1 human trials testing a novel mRNA vaccine. US-based biotech firm Moderna says its initial human vaccine trials have been a success with all patients developing antibodies against the virus.
Unlike a normal vaccine, which is supposed to train up the body's immune system to recognize and resist a virus, RNA vaccines are designed or coded to tell cells what to build to resist certain diseases. The levels of those so-called neutralising antibodies matched the levels found in patients who had recovered after contracting the virus in the community.
Moderna's stock price was up 40 per cent in pre-market trading as the results emerged.
U.S. stocks have jumped and the S&P 500 has closed at a 10-week high, on encouraging early stage data for a potential coronavirus vaccine and on the promise of more stimulus to lift an economy beaten down by the pandemic. Moderna said it plans to drop that amount for the next part of the trial. There were 45 people involved in these three arms, though neutralizing antibody data are only available at this point for the first four patients each of the 25 microgram and 100 microgram cohorts.
Now CureVac's chief operating officer and acting CEO, Franz Werner-Haas, Ph.D., is trying to turn the spotlight back on the science behind the company's mRNA vaccine candidate.
The company said eight people who received two small amounts of its vaccine developed antibodies similar to those developed by people who have recovered from the disease.
"These interim Phase 1 data, while early, demonstrate that vaccination ... elicits an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection starting with a dose as low as 25 [micrograms]", said Dr. Tal Zaks, the company's chief medical officer.
The above video explains how Moderna's potential COVID-19 vaccine works.
In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.
The company acknowledged that a single participant at 100 µg experienced grade 3 erythema (redness) around the injection site, while at the 250 µg dose level, three participants showed grade 3 systemic symptoms, but only following the second dose.
What's the earliest it could be ready?
Earlier reports have discussed how vaccine trials typically involve animal testing, and the ethical issues around intentionally exposing healthy volunteers to a potentially deadly virus in order to test a vaccine's true effectiveness - something called human challenge trials.
A dozen clinical trials are taking place around the world, half of them in China, according to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Drug firms, academic laboratories and governments have developed more than 100 potential vaccines in the hopes of ending the pandemic, but Moderna's was the first to enter clinical trials.
Other drugs have also been included in possible COVID-19 treatments, such as Sanofi's hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria.