An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by a Massachusetts-based biotech company along with the National Institutes for Health has officially begun being tested in humans.
The initial test of the vaccine from Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna is for safety purposes only — 45 people aged 18 to 55 years old are participating in the test to assure that the vaccine is safe for human use. A second phase will then determine its effectiveness, as the New York Times reports.
This first test is being conducted at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. And it's just a coincidence that Seattle became an early hot-spot for the COVID-19 pandemic — the location for the study was selected before that was apparent, per the Times.
The Associated Press and CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO highlighted one of the volunteers, a 43-year-old mother of two teenagers, Jennifer Haller. Haller says that she's happy to be taking part, and "Everybody feels so helpless right now, and I was so excited to be given this opportunity to do something tangible to help thousands, millions of people."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement that the vaccine trial had been launched "at record speed."
The vaccine is expected to be safe and does not contain any of the actual coronavirus — instead it contains messenger RNA (mRNA), a piece of harmless genetic material. And this is the first time that this type of mRNA will be put to the test.
Stock in Moderna Therapeutics, the firm that developed this new method of vaccine production, shot up on Tuesday amid an otherwise chaotic market.
Moderna explains on its website that it was able to produce its first clinical batch of the vaccine on February 7, "a total of 25 days from sequence selection to vaccine manufacture." A little less than a month later, the FDA completed its review of the firm's Investigational New Drug (IND) application, and the trial was approved to begin within 63 days of the first genetic sequencing.
Experts continue to say that we are still at least a year from being able to roll out the vaccine broadly to the public. But, nonetheless, some positive news!