MASSACHUSETTS • Moderna said yesterday it has started a United States government-backed late-stage trial for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, the first to be implemented under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed anti-coronavirus programme.
News of the study, which will test the response to the vaccine in 30,000 adults who do not have the respiratory illness, pushed shares in Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna up more than 8 per cent before the bell.
The federal government is supporting Moderna’s vaccine project with nearly US$1 billion (S$1.38 billion) and has chosen it as one of the first to enter large-scale human trials.
The US government now plans to spend up to US$472 million on top of the previously announced US$483 million, Moderna announced on Sunday.
With laboratories around the world in a furious race to develop the first effective vaccine, Moderna seems to hold the lead as it enters a final round of clinical trials – a decisive step in determining whether a vaccine is both effective and safe.
Chinese biotech firm Sinovac said on July 6 that it, too, would begin a Phase III clinical trial this month, in collaboration with Brazil’s Butantan biologic research centre.
Also reporting encouraging results is a British project developed by Oxford University in partnership with the multinational AstraZeneca laboratory.
In all, nearly 200 candidate vaccines are in development, including 23 now in the clinical phase and being tested on humans.
“Having a safe and effective vaccine distributed by the end of 2020 is a stretch goal, but it’s the right goal for the American people,” US National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said.
Moderna said it remains on track to deliver about 500 million doses a year, and possibly up to one billion doses a year, starting next year.
The trial is designed to evaluate the safety of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 and determine if it can prevent symptomatic Covid-19 after two doses.
The study also seeks to answer if the vaccine can prevent death caused by Covid-19 and if just one dose can prevent symptomatic Covid-19, among other objectives.
Last Wednesday, the American-German BioNTech/Pfizer pharmaceutical alliance announced that the US government had committed US$1.95 billion to procure 100 million doses of its eventual vaccine.
Emergent BioSolutions said yesterday it signed a US$174 million agreement with AstraZeneca to develop and manufacture the British drugmaker’s vaccine candidate.
Last month, AstraZeneca picked Emergent to help produce the 300 million doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine pledged to the US.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE