Health Care

Coronavirus vaccine shows promising early results

Coronavirus vaccine shows promising early results”

U.S. biotech firm Moderna reported "positive interim" results on Monday in the first clinical tests of its vaccine against the new coronavirus performed on a small number of volunteers.

The phase one trial, which was run with the United States government, included eight healthy volunteers who received two doses each of the vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, the Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company said in a statement. In addition, eight of the subjects were tested for the presence of neutralizing antibodies that prevent the virus from infecting cells in the laboratory. Some medical experts urged caution, seeking more data.

Moderna has been given the go ahead by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin a second phase of testing which will involve an additional 600 people, half of whom are over 55. While only preliminary and still not proof that the vaccine will work in the real world against the live virus, the news has sent the stock market into giddy territory, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up almost 1,000 points since Monday morning trading began.

But stay cautious, says Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine specialist at Baylor. The first eight participants produced neutralizing antibody levels similar those found in recovering COVID-19 patients, and in a lab, those antibodies prevented coronavirus from replicating.

"The fact that the vaccine elicited neutralizing antibody amounts comparable or higher to those found in convalescent sera [plasma] is very encouraging", Arturo Casadevall, the chair of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who is not involved in developing the Moderna vaccine, tells The Washington Post. The participants were then given a second dose about a month later.

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Three doses of the vaccine were tested: low, medium and high.

Theoretically, the administered mRNA sequence can cause a cell to make a protein, which in turn could directly treat a disease or could function as a vaccine, which is how Moderna engineered their experimental vaccine that has offered a ray of hope amidst the Coronavirus epidemic that has claimed over 300,000 across the world as of May 19.

This is the first COVID-19 vaccine to make it through the first round of clinical trials. The company hopes by July to begin a Phase III study, aimed at showing that the vaccine can actually prevent disease. In other words, similar to the mild side-effects from other vaccines like the flu vaccine.

There is no proven treatment or vaccine against the coronavirus at this time. So the best-case scenario is that the vaccine for the novel coronavirus which has caused this worldwide pandemic might have a vaccine this year or early 2021. We're not expecting any changes to our fair value estimates for vaccine manufacturers, however, as most of the firms in our coverage with SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates have already stated that selling prices would be at a not-for-profit level.

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