American biotech company Moderna Inc., which announced it has completed development of world's first version of a coronavirus vaccine, has shipped on Monday the first batch of its rapidly developed vaccine to U.S. government researchers, who will launch the first human tests, checking whether the experimental shot could help suppress the epidemic originating in China.
The vaccine's development was completed in record time – just 42 days after the pathogen's genetic make-up was successfully sequenced.
Clinical trials are expected to begin in April, with some 30 volunteers.
This will be the first of four medical trials on humans that will test the efficacy of the vaccine and rule out any dangerous side effects.
Upon the completion of the first trial in April, the second phase will thoroughly test the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing a coronavirus infection on a larger group of volunteers.
Given the rapid spread of the virus around the world, this phase of clinical trials, which usually takes months or years, is likely to begin much earlier.
The new vaccine, going by the name mRNA-1273, is an mRNA vaccine against the novel coronavirus encoding for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein. The S protein complex is necessary for membrane fusion and host cell infection and has been the target of vaccines against the coronaviruses responsible for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Additionally, Pharmaceutical company GSK announced on Monday it was working in concert with Chinese biotech company Clover Biopharmaceuticals on a coronavirus vaccine.
The collaboration will revolve around the development of a potential protein-based vaccine known as COVID-19 S-Trimer, manufactured by the Chengdu-based pharma company.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus epidemic continues to spread around the world. As of Tuesday, 80,290 cases of the virus have been reported around the world, 2,707 patients have died, and 27,795 patients have made a complete recovery. Eighty-one percent of patients (40,573) were hospitalized in light condition and 19% of patients (9,215) in critical condition.
Most coronavirus cases were reported in China, with over 77,663 people infected by the virulent pathogen and 2,664 patients have died as a result.
There were 270 reported infections and 7 deaths in Italy, and 160 infections and one death in Japan.
Other countries that have reported cases of the coronavirus are the United States, Hong Kong, Iran, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Germany, France, Britain, and Macau.