A clinical trial of an investigational COVID-19 vaccine begins

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3D print of a spike protein of SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—in front of a 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle. The spike protein (foreground) enables the virus to enter and infect human cells. On the virus model, the virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. Credit: NIH

SEATTLE (WLNS) – A clinical trial of an investigational vaccine to protect against COVID-19 has begun in Seattle.

The trial at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute will enroll 45 healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by NIAID scientists as well as a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The study uses different doses of the experimental vaccine for safety and effectiveness in participants. This is the first of multiple steps in the clinical trial process for determining the potential benefit of the vaccine.

The mRNA-1273 vaccine has “shown promise” in animal models, and this is the first trial to examine it in humans, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Scientists were able to quickly develop mRNA-1273 because of prior studies of related coronaviruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Currently, no approved vaccines exist to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2.

“This work is critical to national efforts to respond to the threat of this emerging virus,” Dr. Jackson said.

As of March 15, 2020, the World Health Organization has reported 153,517 cases of COVID-19 and 5,735 deaths worldwide.

More than 2,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 58 deaths have been reported in the United States as of March 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can cause a mild to severe respiratory illness and include symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

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