A top U.S. official speaking to Congress on Thursday expressed confidence that potential coronavirus vaccines would be ready for in-human testing in record time.

Previously, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), suggested it would be two to three months before researchers injected the first people with experimental vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

COVID-19 blood sample

Image source: Getty Images.

Record time 

Fauci was not specific about which experimental coronavirus vaccine he expected would be the first into human trials, but we do know that the National Institutes of Health and Moderna (MRNA -1.39%) have been working together to develop one for weeks now. Moderna shipped batches of mRNA-1273 to the NIAID on Feb. 24.

Fauci also stressed that getting a vaccine candidate into clinical trials doesn't mean that the vaccine will be available to the public quickly. Injecting strands of genetic material into tens of millions of people isn't something the FDA's going to allow until it's clear whether or not it works and is safe -- and it will take a year to 18 months to find that out.

Something different

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine candidate is just one of many in the pre-clinical development stage. But despite a crowded field, mRNA-1273 has a chance to stand out. 

Instead of injecting patients with proteins found on the surface of viruses, Moderna's vaccines are strands of mRNA that coax a person's own cells to start producing proteins found on the surface of viruses. 

Moderna's working on a long list of vaccines against infectious diseases, but none have proven themselves in pivotal studies yet.