COVID-19 Vaccine: Here's what you need to know about the second vaccine candidate to start human trials
Headed by the pharmaceutical company Inovio, the trial began on Monday and will include 40 healthy adult volunteers.
In an encouraging development, a second COVID-19 vaccine has entered Phase 1 trials in the US. Headed by the pharmaceutical company Inovio, the trial began on Monday and will include 40 healthy adult volunteers.
The first vaccine candidate by the pharmaceutical company Moderna began human trials mid-March in Seattle and has given two-thirds of participants the first of two jabs.
The Inovio vaccine, dubbed INO-4800, will be given in two doses, four weeks apart. The trials will be conducted at the Centre for Pharmaceutical Research in Kansas City. If the first phase, which tests mainly for safety and adverse reactions, goes well, Inovio said it would develop a million doses by the end of the year to begin further investigations.
While this is breakneck speed as far as vaccine development is concerned, it will still be at least a year to 18 months before a viable candidate will be accessible to the public.
How does the vaccine work?
Preclinical trials involving animal models have shown that the vaccine was able to trigger strong immune responses. Previously, Inovio had conducted a phase 1 trial of a vaccine on MERS (a closely related cousin of COVID-19) which also showed strong immune responses.
This is a DNA vaccine - a small section of the virus is loaded onto synthetic DNA, which encodes proteins similar to those produced by the virus. The hope is that this will trigger an antibody response and help the host maintain immunity against the virus.
Unlike other vaccines, INO-4800 will be injected skin deep rather than muscle deep, and a tiny electric buzz will be administered since this triggers deeper penetration of the vaccine.
The project is funded partly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and efforts are in place to hold clinical trials in China as well.
Other vaccines on the horizon
Novavax, a biotech company based in Maryland USA, has also shown encouraging signs in preclinical trials and expects to initiate the first phase of human trials by mid-May in Australia. Johnson and Johnson, which has partnered with and received $500 million from the US Department of Health, also said it would start human trials by September.
More imminently, the University of Pittsburgh and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are awaiting government approval so that they can start clinical trials as well.
For more information, read our article on COVID-19 prevention and care tips for parents with young children.
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