Moderna (MRNA 0.59%) announced on Monday afternoon that the company's experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, is ready for human testing. The initial batch of the vaccine has already been shipped to U.S. government researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
The biotech company expects that the first clinical trials will begin near late April, with around 25 healthy volunteers participating in these tests. Initial clinical results could be available sometime in July or August.
It's a remarkably fast development cycle for Moderna to be able to develop an initial vaccine just weeks after identifying the COVID-19 genetic sequence.
"Going into a phase one trial within three months of getting the sequence is unquestionably the world indoor record," said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci in an interview. "Nothing has ever gone that fast,"
Moderna's mRNA technology is quite promising, with mRNA vaccines hypothetically being faster and more effective than their DNA-based counterparts. This is because DNA-based vaccines need to interact with the nucleus of the cell, whereas mRNA (or messenger RNA) is found all across the cell and is much more accessible. However, given that mRNA vaccines have never been tested before on humans, it's still uncertain how well Moderna's new coronavirus vaccine will perform.
While Moderna's vaccine is a newly developed treatment, other companies have found success in using drugs designed for other, similar conditions. Gilead Sciences' remdesivir, an Ebola drug, has been effective in helping reduce COVID-19 symptoms, with the World Health Organization (WHO) touting its potential in a statement early today.