Under-trial vaccine succeeds in producing Covid-19 antibodies in humans

Henrietta Brewer
May 22, 2020

The phase I study, which was run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), provides insight on the potential of the vaccine in neutralizing the virus.

Moderna stated that the antibody levels seen were on a par with - or greater than, in the case of the 100-microgram dose - those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection.

Further, the levels of those "neutralising antibodies" matched the levels found in patients who had recovered after contracting the virus in the community.

How is the vaccine prepared?

An American coronavirus vaccine trial has delivered promising signs that researchers are on the cusp of finding a proper weapon against the pandemic.

Evercore ISI's Raffat also noted other concerns about Moderna's data release that investors have been voicing over the last couple of days.

Although scientists have assumed that antibodies produced in response to the new coronavirus virus are protective, there has been scant scientifically rigorous evidence to back that up.

A viral protein requires heavy production needs; an mRNA vaccine bypasses that need. STAT's experts question whether the remaining 37 volunteers also developed neutralizing antibodies.

A dozen clinical trials are taking place around the world, half of them in China, according to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

What does this mean for a vaccine timeline?

"These interim Phase 1 data, while early, demonstrate that vaccination with mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection starting with a dose as low as 25 µg", said Tal Zaks, Chief Medical Officer at Moderna.

Moderna kicked off the early data around the vaccine race and released the first data from its phase 1 trial of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine mRNA-1273 on May 18, in conjunction with data supporting efficacy of the vaccine in mice.

The Phase 2 trial, with 600 subjects, has already received the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration and Moderna said they should begin this quarter. Globally, 4.7 million people have been infected by the virus and over 3,15,000 have died.

The announcement came on the same day Moderna offered an early peek into results from a phase 1 test in eight individuals. These initial results are based on tests of the low and medium doses. The only adverse effect at those doses was redness and soreness in one patient's arm where the shot was given.

The company said that three patients at the highest dose level experienced some discomfort, including fever, after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.

Moderna stock surged 26 per cent in trading before the market opened in the US. If, by chance, they mostly clustered around the younger end of the age spectrum, you might expect a better response to the vaccine than if they were mostly from the senior end of it.

Moderna recently announced a partnership with the giant drugmaker Lonza to boost its manufacturing capacity to up to one billion doses a year.

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