In Phase 1 testing in humans
Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, USA
The first vaccine to enter Phase 1 clinical trials, investigating safety and efficacy in humans - skipping animal testing, for the time being - was the RNA vaccine developed by Moderna (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and funded by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the US National Institutes of Health. The vaccine is being tested on volunteers at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.
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Cansino Biologics’s viral vector vaccine, China
The other vaccine candidate currently in Phase 1 trials is Ad5-nCoV which uses a harmless non-replicating viral vector (essentially a sort of molecular transport) to carry vaccine antigens into the human cell – this is the same platform that the vaccine developer Cansino Biologics Inc, based in Tianjin, used for its Ebola vaccine. The vaccine was jointly developed with the Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. The clinical trial will enroll 108 subjects and take place at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 pandemic began. Unlike the Moderna vaccine, this one has already been tested on animals and shown to be safe and trigger an immune response.
Soon-to-be in Phase 1
Inovio Pharmaceuticals’ DNA vaccine, USA
Inovio is planning to put its INO-4800 DNA vaccine into human trials in April. It is so far the only company with a Phase 2 vaccine against the related MERS-CoV. The company plans to start human clinical trials in the USA, and shortly after in China and South Korea.
BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine, Germany
BioNTech, working together with Pfizer, plans to start testing its BNT162 vaccine in humans in late April in global trials with study sites in Europe (Germany to start off with), the USA and China.
University of Oxford’s viral vector vaccine, UK
The ChAdOx1 developed by the University of Oxford is due to be tested in human clinical trials next months. The team will also start animal trials next week at the Public Health England (PHE) laboratory in the UK, though these may not be entirely complete before the human trials start, because of the urgency of stopping the pandemic. Ferrets and macaques will be injected with the vaccine, and then given an intranasal dose of the virus – scientists will check whether the vaccine can prevent the virus from spreading in the body.
Novavax’s protein subunit vaccine, USA
Novavax is using a nanoparticle technology platform to generate antigens from the protein found on the spiky outer shell of the coronavirus. Several candidates are being tested in animal trials, with Phase 1 testing expected in the next month or two.