Updated: May 20, 2020 8:12:47 am
In a possible breakthrough in coronavirus treatment, Moderna Inc has reported successful results from its experimental vaccine for Covid-19. The US biotechnology company Monday said its studies, although in a very early stage, showed the vaccine was “generally safe and well-tolerated”.
Moderna’s vaccine is among the over 100 projects in various stages of development across the world. Its results Monday come at a time when global coronavirus cases are nearing five million. At least 300,000 people have succumbed to the disease. Experts have predicted a vaccine could be ready only in about 12-18 months.
Vaccines are biological products. They are introduced in the body to teach the immune system how to identify and neutralise toxins released by a pathogen. As compared to drugs, vaccines are administered to vulnerable sections of society to help them obtain immunity from a disease without getting sick.
What is Moderna Inc?
Moderna Inc is an American biotechnology company. Its vaccine, developed jointly with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases which is headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, was the first to undergo human trials in the United States. According to The New York Times, Moderna was granted half a billion dollars by the government to quicken development of the vaccine.
The company’s shares rose by 20 per cent on Monday after it released its preliminary findings. Last night, the company launched a $1.34 billion share offering at an offer price of $76 per share. It had earlier said it would sell its stock to raise money to develop and manufacture a vaccine for Covid-19.
Also read | Explained: Why a vaccine is still far away
Moderna’s news boosted investor sentiment on Wall Street, due to which Asian shares rose on Tuesday. The BSE Sensex and broader Nifty, tracking global cues, was trading in the green as well.
Moderna’s vaccine: testing and results
Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, was created using the genetic material of the virus, called mRNA. It was tested on 45 healthy individuals who were between the ages of 18 and 45 in a safety trial. The participants received anywhere between a 25-250 microgram dose of the vaccine.
Eight participants who received two doses of the vaccine — 25 and 100 mcg — produced antibodies that could defeat the coronavirus. The antibodies reportedly produced a higher level of protective antibodies than found in the blood of recovered Covid-19 patients.
Some of the participants showed side effects like local pain, redness at the site of injection, and fever — effects that could be considered a good immunity response.
After the results, the company has dropped the idea of administering 250 mcg doses to participants.
Moderna has been given permission to begin the second phase of its trial. In a test for its safety and efficacy, the company will begin Phase 11 of its trial, where the vaccine will be administered to 600 participants to find the appropriate dose required to beat the virus. After the company acquired successful results with 25-100 mcg doses, it is expected to test a 50 mcg dose.
A lesser dose of the vaccine would mean a larger quantity available to administer to the population.
In the last phase of the trial, which is likely to begin in July, the vaccine will be tested on thousands of subjects. In this stage, the company will conduct a placebo-controlled study.
The company is looking to receive regulatory approval in 2021.
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