The first clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine began on Monday morning in Seattle, Wash.
The vaccine trial is being conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle and the National Institute of Health is funding the trial. The trial is the first of its kind for the 2019 novel coronavirus, COVID-19, according to a Kaiser Permanente press release.
“We are proud that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) selected us to conduct this innovative trial,” said Lisa Jackson, MD, MPH, senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente. “We’re well prepared and focused on helping to address this evolving health situation.”
The investigational vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and is developed through a partnership between the NIH and Moderna.
The vaccine is being developed through a new process that does not contain any portion of the virus, and thus cannot cause infection. The vaccine is instead designed as a lab-produced RNA sequence that instructs cells in the human body to produce a protein also found on the outer coat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The protein instruction is meant to elicit an immune system response, which could then improve the immune system’s ability to fight the coronavirus if a vaccinated person is infected later on.
Moderna’s new vaccine production process is also meant to be faster than traditional vaccine development methods, the press release stated. Recruiting for the initial testing phase began on March 3, and recruiting remains open for healthy people between the ages of 18-55 in the Seattle area interested in participating.
The first of three testing phase is set to include 45 participants. The main focus of the first phase is to test the safety of various doses and see whether those doses trigger an immune response. The key matter for the first testing phase is whether the vaccine may carry any concerning side effects.
The question of whether the vaccine can actually help prevent coronavirus infections will be studied in later testing phases.
A full vaccine could still take between 12 to 18 months to validate.
Participants in Kaiser Permanente’s first vaccine test phase is meant to include 11 in-person study visits and have 4 phone visits over a 14-month period, according to a readout of the phase 1 study protocol.
Other efforts are being made to deliver even temporary protection against coronavirus. Some researchers are developing shots that might protect people from coronavirus for a month or two at a time while a longer-lasting vaccine is in development, according to the Associated Press.