The first human test to evaluate a candidate vaccine against coronavirus 2019 began in Seattle, U.S. health officials said on Monday.
“The open study will include 45 healthy adult volunteers, aged 18 to 55, for approximately 6 weeks,” the US National Institute of Health (NIH) said in a statement.
“The first participant received the experimental vaccine today.”
But the candidate would still need to progress through several steps, known as phases, to prove that it works and is safe.
American officials have estimated that it could take another year to 18 months for it to become available – if all goes well.
The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by scientists and NIH collaborators at the modern biotechnology company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Funding was also provided by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection is an urgent public health priority,” said Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at NIH.
“This Phase 1 study, launched at record speed, is an important first step towards achieving that goal.”
Coronaviruses are spherical and have tips protruding from their surface, giving them the appearance of a crown. The peak binds to human cells, allowing the virus to gain entry.
The Modern candidate vaccine carries the genetic information from that peak into a substance called “messenger RNA”.
Injecting human tissue with the spike’s messenger RNA makes it grow inside the body, thereby eliciting an immune response without having actually infected a person with the full-blown virus.