Cutting through the deluge of negative reportage about the coronavirus, here is some positive news! In a recent update, Moderna has reported that the initial batch of 8 healthy volunteers who received two doses of the vaccine made neutralizing antibodies that matched the levels of those who had recovered after contracting the coronavirus.
When these antibodies were tested in human cells, they were able to stop the coronavirus from replicating, which is the main requirement for a vaccine to be effective. Moderna has since received a nod from the FDA for an accelerated phase-II clinical trial of about 600 people and is in the process of finalizing the protocol to begin the Phase-III study of the mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate in early summer 2020.
According to the New York Times, Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine relies on genetic material known as messenger RNA, which carries the recipe for making proteins to tiny ribosome chefs inside cells. The vaccine is written with a very specific recipe — in this case for making the spike protein of the coronavirus. Because the virus typically uses this protein as a key to unlock and take over lung cells, the vaccine could train a healthy immune system to produce antibodies to fight off an infection before someone gets sick.
Dozens of companies are currently involved in the race to create a vaccine for the novel coronavirus including Pfizer, BioNTech, CanSino Biologics, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi. With the entire world reeling under the effects of this highly infectious disease, the hopes of a getting a vaccine earlier than expected have just risen. Although more than one vaccine will be needed to effectively cover all age groups, dosages and cost concerns, any positive news is good for the world.