CEO Of Moderna ‘Confident’ That Covid-19 Vaccine Will Be Ready By 2021

The CEO of pharmaceutical company Moderna, Stephane Bancel, claims to have a new vaccine that has a 1-in-3 chance of getting FDA approval by 2021.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Human Trials For Covid-19 Vaccine Begins At Oxford University

The first human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine have begun in Oxford. Two volunteer patients were injected this week, and 800 more individuals will also be given the vaccine within the next few weeks as a part of the study. Half of the participants will be injected with the Covid-19 vaccine and the other half will receive a control vaccine that protects them from meningitis, but not the coronavirus. The design of the trial study makes it so each volunteer is unaware of which vaccine they’re receiving; the doctors obviously do know, however.

“Personally I have a high degree of confidence in this vaccine. Of course, we have to test it and get data from humans. We have to demonstrate it actually works and stops people getting infected with coronavirus before using the vaccine in the wider population,” said Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the Jenner Institute who led the pre-clinical research for the study. 

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The vaccine itself was developed in under three months by a team of researchers and scientists at Oxford University. According to the scientists who worked on it, the vaccine is made from a weakened version of a strain of the common cold virus; which is known as an adenovirus. They took this specific virus from chimpanzees and modified it so that it would be able to grow in humans. 

To put it simply, scientists have taken genes found on the surface of the coronavirus and added them to the adenovirus that they took from the chimpanzees. Scientists then inject this combination into the patient where it will begin to enter their cells and produce the coronavirus gene. As this process begins, the patient’s immune system should begin producing antibodies and activate killer T-cells to destroy all cells with that specific Covid-19 gene sequence. This is basically the same thing that happens in your body when you get a flu shot. 

The goal is that the vaccine works exactly like a flu shot in the sense that whenever an individual who’s been vaccinated is exposed to the coronavirus, their body’s immune system will be equipped to fight it off. 

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The same team running this trial developed a vaccine against MERS, another type of the coronavirus, using this same approach, hence the confidence from Gilbert and the rest of the team. The only real way that they’ll know if it works, however, is to compare the number of individuals who become infected within the coming months. The biggest concern is that cases in general will begin to decline in the UK which would give the scientists less data to work on the vaccine with. 

The researchers are prioritizing local healthcare workers to be their test subjects, as those are the individuals that are most likely to be exposed to the virus. Within the next two months, the team hopes to start a much larger trial of about 5,000 individuals instead of 800. In terms of timelines and when this vaccine could actually be distributed, Gilbert says only time will tell. 

“It’s not really our role to dictate what will happen, we just have to try to get a vaccine that works and have enough of it and then it will be for others to decide. We’ve got to ensure we have enough doses to provide for those in greatest need, not just in the UK but also in developing countries.”

This team at Oxford luckily has a fund of over 40 million pounds to work with on further research and trial developments. While this entire pandemic has been a waiting game in terms of updates, it seems as though this team of scientists is on the right track and has the necessary resources to remain on course. Gilbert is hoping the world sees a Covid-19 vaccine as early as fall 2020.