Image by Images via Pixabay/Victor Tangermann

The US Food and Drug Administration has accepted an application by pharmaceutical company Inovio to start clinical human testing for a new potential vaccine for COVID-19.

According to a statement, 40 or so healthy volunteers will participate at two trial locations in Philadelphia and Kansas City. They already took the first dose Monday.

"This is a significant step forward in the global fight against COVID-19," Inovio CEO Joseph Kim said in the statement. "Without a new safe and effective vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue to threaten lives and livelihoods."

"We are pleased to see the rapid advancement of their vaccine candidate into clinical safety testing," said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), in the statement. "Producing a COVID-19 vaccine within the next 12 to 18 months is not only a scientific challenge; it will also require new levels of collaboration and investment across industry and government."

Inovio has already completed a Phase 1 study for a similar DNA vaccine to treat Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Middle East. The trials showed that the vaccine was capable of producing high levels of antibodies in subjects for up to "60 weeks following dosing," according to the company.

A number of nonprofits have backed the vaccine's development, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The company has ambitious goals: one million doses available by the end of the year "for additional trials and emergency use, pending appropriate regulatory guidance and funding."