Two trials of vaccine that is hoped will stop the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 585,000 people are showing promising progress.
The research, run by teams at the University of Oxford in England and biotechnology company Moderna in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop their vaccines before the end of the year.
The Oxford University vaccine, being manufactured by AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, England, has already had millions of doses mass-produced in the event of the trials being successful. The researchers says it is “80% confident” of it being available by September.
Phase I human trials of the vaccine show it generates an immune response against COVID-19, Telegraph reported.
Blood samples taken from a group of UK volunteers given a dose of the vaccine showed that it stimulated the body to produce antibodies and ‘killer T-cells’, a senior source told the Telegraph.
This is hugely promising y as separate studies have suggested that antibodies may fade away within months while T-cells can stay in circulation in the body for years.
“I can tell you that we now know the Oxford vaccine covers both bases – it produces both a T cell and an antibody response,” the senior source said.
“It’s the combination of these two that will hopefully keep people safe.
“So far, so good. It’s an important moment. But we still have a long way to go.”
The Oxford vaccine is in its second expanded trial stage, featuring 8,000 people in the UK and up to 6,000 people in Brazil and South Africa.
The initial data showed that the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine appeared safe with no major side effects, it is understood, although further work will be needed. The team is also evaluating the level of dose needed to produce an effective response.
Stocks in AstraZeneca jumped 5.2% on Wednesday after reports of positive news on the Oxford vaccine to be released in The Lancet medical journal on 20 July.
In the US, Moderna reported that all 45 volunteers in the early phase of its trial had developed immune responses after receiving its vaccine, though with more than half its subjects experiencing mild or moderate side effects including headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.
Its vaccine, called mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid to program human cells to make proteins similar to the spike proteins of COVID-19 cells, training the body’s immune system to identify and attack them.
Its initial small study found that higher doses of mRNA-1273 in the human system corresponded with higher levels of immunity in subjects, by injecting people with doses of 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine in two instalments over 28 days.
Moderna, whose shares rose around 11% on Wednesday, will begin a second trial of 30,000 people later this month. The US government has so far pledged nearly half a billion dollars in funding for the Moderna vaccine.
“We have already started to make material at risk in preparation for commercial (vaccine) doses. We are moving as quickly and as safely as possible,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said on a conference call to discuss the study.
Moderna said it is on track to be able to deliver around 500 million doses or more per year in 2021.
The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”