Virus vaccine breakthrough announced



A coronavirus vaccine trial based in the US will now be expanded to hundreds of people after it worked in eight patients.

One of the first COVID-19 vaccine to be tested in humans was able to simulate an immune response against the virus, according to its US based manufacturer Moderna.

Eight healthy volunteers were given two doses of the vaccine from March.

The vaccine was able to produce virus-fighting antibodies that were similar or greater than those found in patients who had recovered.

It was able to stop the virus replicating.

Clinical Trial – Vaccine: COVID-19, coronavirus in vial with syringe on white background. Fake label.
Clinical Trial – Vaccine: COVID-19, coronavirus in vial with syringe on white background. Fake label.

Moderna said it was now speeding up its timetable of testing, expanding to 600 people, after the US Food and Drug Administration approved its application to do so earlier this month.

A third phase in July is set to involve thousands of healthy people.

"The imminent Phase 2 study start is a crucial step forward," Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive, said in a statement earlier this month.

Dr Tal Zaks, Moderna's chief medical officer, said if those trials went well, a vaccine could become available by the end of the year or early 2021.

Researchers and companies across the world are racing to develop a vaccine as the deadly infection continues its spread.

The technology Moderna uses involves a segment of genetic material from the virus called messenger RNA, or mRNA.

Its tests in mice that were vaccinated and infected found the drug could prevent the virus from replicating in the lungs.

Low, medium and high doses of the vaccine were tested in humans, with the highest causing fever, muscle aches and headaches, but the symptoms went away in a day.

The lower doses appeared to work well enough that the high dose will not be needed anyway.

Moderna's announcement comes days after one of its directors, Moncef Slaoui, stepped down from the board to become chief scientist for Operation Warp Speed, a White House initiative to speed up vaccine development.

In Australia, early tests of a potential vaccine have shown promising results.

In preclinical tests, the University of Queensland's vaccine showed it could raise high levels of antibodies that can neutralise the virus.

The university's project co-leader Professor Paul Young said the results were an excellent indication the vaccine worked as expected.

The team decided early on that ensuring a robust package of preclinical and safety data was critical before initiating a clinical trial.

The final results from preclinical tests are hoped to be in by early June before clinical trials can start.