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Covid-19 vaccine updates: Moderna, Novavax to start human trials; Sanofi row and more

Covid-19 vaccine updates: Moderna, Novavax to start human trials; Sanofi row and more

With scientists and researchers racing against time to find a cure for the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 4.2 million people, this week has seen considerable developments from firms like Moderna and Novavax in developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

From Moderna Therapeutics getting fast-track approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Covid-19 vaccine to Novavax moving to humans trials, the world is trying its best to lay its hands on a vaccine.

For Covid-19, a vaccine is of paramount importance at this stage and there are some 100 research groups across the world racing to develop one. These projects are in various stages of development, from research to clinical trials. Vaccines are important because a lot of resources are saved in preventing a disease and not having to treat it.

Latest developments in finding a vaccine for Covid-19:

👉 American biotechnology company Moderna Therapeutics said earlier this week it received "fast-track approval" from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its potential Covid-19 vaccine and would conduct its phase 2 trial, according to USA Today.

In the second phase, Moderna will enroll 600 healthy volunteers, half of whom are 18-55 years old and the rest over 55 years old, for the trial of its experimental mRNA vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273.

The Phase II study will assess the safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity of two vaccinations of mRNA-1273 administered 28 days apart. Participants will be given placebo, a 50μg or a 250μg dose at both vaccinations and followed through 12 months following the second vaccination.

"Fast Track designation underscores the urgent need for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus," Tal Zaks, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer at Moderna, told reporters.

Moderna's vaccine relies on a the mRNA of the virus — it involves injecting fragments of the viral genetic material into the body, which then stimulates the body's immune system to fight the novel coronavirus.

👉 US-based Novavax, which recently received a $384-million funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said it would start human tests of its NVX-COV2373 vaccine. The vaccine has showed promising results in animal trials and its next phase will see tests on 130 humans from Australia.

Dr Gregory Glenn, president of research and development for Novavax, told US news outlets that single and double doses of the vaccine had shown great promise in mice and baboons. The vaccine has been engineered from a genetic sequence of the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Using Novavax's Matrix-M technology, the vaccine is able to enhance immune response and stimulate high levels of neutralizing antibodies.

👉 Hours after stating the US would get first access to its Covid-19 vaccine, thereby sparking a row, French pharmaceutical group Sanofi said it would make it available in all countries. In an interview to Bloomberg, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson had said "the US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it's invested in taking the risk".

US agency Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has funded the development of the vaccine. However, Hudson's comments has singed the French government, with Junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher saying it would be "unacceptable that a country would get privileged access under the pretext of money reasons".

Sanofi's is using an existing technology for its vaccine that was designed for influenza and it is being applied it to the new virus that causes Covid-19.

👉 Israel-based Tel Aviv University has entered into a partnership with Swiss-based bio pharmaceutical company Neovii to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, Jerusalem Post reported.

Giving insights on the development, Prof. Jonathan Gershoni of TAU's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology said the aim of the research is to develop a vaccine that potentially could be more efficient and safer than other vaccines because of the ability to target just the specific part of the virus that attacks the cell and not the whole protein spike.

"This will save the immune system a lot of energy and prevent potential negative reactions mediated by irrelevant antibodies that have 'missed their target', something that can occur with less focused vaccines," Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.

(Inputs and image from theindianexpress.com)

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