Massachusetts biotech firm releases potential coronavirus vaccine for human testing

Massachusetts biotech firm releases potential coronavirus vaccine for human testing

A Massachusetts biotech firm has completed a potential coronavirus vaccine and released it to federal health officials for human testing, according to officials and a new report.

Moderna, Inc., of Cambridge, announced on Monday that it released its first batch of mRNA-1273 to treat humans for the virus.

Vials have been shipped to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md. The experimental vaccine will now be tested in humans, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The institute will begin a clinical trial of about 20 to 25 healthy volunteers by the end of April to determine whether two doses of the shot are safe and induce an immune response likely to safeguard participants from infection, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told the Journal.

Initial results could be released by July or August.

It has yet to be determined whether the Moderna batch will work, because it’s gene-based technology has yet to yield an approved human vaccine, Fauci said. Even if the first study is positive, the vaccine may not be readily available until next year, pending further studies and regulatory clearance, the doctor said.

But Fauci told the Journal that even if the spread of coronavirus lessens during the warmer months, it could come back full-force next winter like the flu.

“The only way you can completely suppress an emerging infectious disease is with a vaccine,” he told the paper. “If you want to really get it quickly, you’re using technologies that are not as time-honored as the standard, what I call antiquated, way of doing it.”

In a statement, Juan Andres, Moderna’s chief technical operations and quality officer, thanked the company’s team “for their extraordinary effort in responding to this global health emergency with record speed.”

“I want to thank the entire Moderna team for their extraordinary effort in responding to this global health emergency with record speed,” he said. “The collaboration across Moderna, with NIAID, and with [the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation] has allowed us to deliver a clinical batch in 42 days from sequence identification. This would not have been possible without our Norwood manufacturing site, which uses leading-edge technology to enable flexible operations and ensure high quality standards are met for clinical-grade material.”

The global coronavirus death toll has risen to more than 2,700 — most of the cases in mainland China. The total number of infections worldwide stands at more than 80,000.

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