Rush Job

Drugmaker Ships First Batch of Experimental Coronavirus Vaccines

"Nothing has ever gone that fast."

2. 25. 20 / Dan Robitzski
Scientific Animations/Victor Tangermann
Image by Scientific Animations/Victor Tangermann

Scientists at the pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. just shipped out a batch of an experimental vaccine that might protect against the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The company sent the first batch of the vaccine to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reports. There, federal scientists will investigate it and — if everything goes well — begin clinical trials on human participants as soon as April.

Every day brings new reports of COVID-19 cases and fatalities, but shipping and potentially testing a vaccine within three months is blazingly fast compared to the usual pace at which new drugs and vaccines get developed.

For instance, the WSJ reports that it took 20 months for NIAID to begin testing a vaccine for SARS back in the early 2000s.

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“Going into a Phase One trial within three months of getting the sequence is unquestionably the world indoor record,” NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told the WSJ. “Nothing has ever gone that fast.”

And, to be fair, there’s no guarantee that Moderna’s vaccine will work — most drugs explored in clinical trials don’t.

“You’re never sure until you’re at the end what you have,” Bruce Gellin, president of global immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, told the WSJ.

Results from this first human trial will be available in July or August. That may not help people now, but could lessen future outbreaks. Some officials, including Fauci, are concerned that COVID-19 could become a seasonal outbreak like the flu.

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Regardless of the trial’s outcome, Moderna is already reaping the rewards of its quick work: stock prices jumped nearly 15 percent as soon as it made the announcement.


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