US Company's COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Promise As It Builds Antibodies In Human Trials
A US biotech firm has reportedly produced a promising COVID-19 vaccine that not only safely went through early human trials, but also successfully produced antibodies in human samples
Moderna Inc, a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of eight developers worldwide doing human clinical trials with a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The company had on Monday, 18 May, gained worldwide attention after they announced that their vaccine candidate - named mRNA-1273 - can build immunity against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Among the 45 individuals who participated in Moderna's phase one trial, eight volunteers who took two doses of the vaccine produced antibodies that were roughly on par with people who recovered from COVID-19, reported Al Jazeera.
The research is conducted alongside the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the primary agency of the US government responsible for biomedical and public health research.
Moderna's chief medical officer Dr Tal Zaks said if the studies go well, the vaccine could be available to the public as early as January 2021
"We've demonstrated that these antibodies, this immune response, can actually block the virus," Dr Zaks told CNN. "I think this is a very important first step in our journey towards having a vaccine."
Typically, phase one clinical trials study a small number of people and focus on whether a vaccine is safe and elicits an immune response, while phase two focuses on a larger-size sample group to determine the appropriate dosage.
It is only at phase three that the vaccine will be put on a large-scale trial, something which Moderna plans to start in July.
However, it is worth noting that Moderna's research has yet to be published in a medical journal or peer reviewed
In a key fact sheet by Forbes, it highlighted that the company only released information about the eight of the 45 total volunteers. It means that the majority of the outcomes remain unknown.
Suspicion is also running high since the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) led by Dr Anthony Fauci, a division under NIH, remains mum on the big breakthrough. Experts are saying that it is abnormal because NIAID usually tends to tout success.
Experts have also voiced their concerns about the lack of data in Moderna's studies, critiquing that the report only had words.
"If you ask scientists to read a journal article, they will scour data tables, not corporate statements. With science, numbers speak much louder than words," reported Stat, an American health-oriented news portal.
Despite that, Moderna is still the only firm that has been approved to enter phase two clinical trials
TIME reported that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Moderna a fast-track designation to enter phase two testing.
Based on the WHO's COVID-19 candidate vaccines report, Moderna is the only one that has entered phase two.
Among the eight that are currently running COVID-19 vaccine trials on humans in the world, three companies are from the US, four are in China, while one - University of Oxford - is in Britain.
Meanwhile, 110 other vaccine candidates are currently in various stages of development.
Moderna said they will release their findings in an eventual journal article from NIAID.
Last month, UK-based Malaysian surgeon Dr Amalina Bakri said she is involved in Imperial College's COVID-19 vaccine research:
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