A lab worker boxes up test tubes of patient samples in a virology research labs | Geert Vanden Wijngaert | Bloomberg
A lab worker boxes up test tubes of patient samples in a virology research labs | Geert Vanden Wijngaert | Representational image | Bloomberg File Photo
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New Delhi: US-based pharmaceutical firm Moderna has completed phase one of the clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine based on mRNA technology.

The mRNA is a molecule that genetically encodes a set of instructions, based on which cells make proteins and send them to various parts of the body. Vaccines based on mRNA technology take advantage of normal biological processes of the body to create the desired therapeutic effect.

The vaccine has shown positive results in the first phase of the human trial conducted on 45 patients. All vaccine recipients are safe and eight of them produced more antibodies against coronavirus than the infected patients did.

These vaccines also offer potential advantages such as efficacy, speed of development and production scalability. According to Ingmar Hoerr, head of the German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, “One gram of mRNA vaccine can immunise 1 million people.”

Moderna has started phase two of the trial and this will be the first mRNA-based vaccine to enter phase three, if it does so, by July. These encouraging developments increased Moderna’s share price from $18.50 to nearly $87, bringing fortunes to an MIT Professor Bob Langer who holds 3.2 per cent of the shares in the company.

Also read: Vaccine developers like Moderna need to take their time

Other frontrunners in the race 

US President Donald Trump has instituted ‘Operation Warp Speed’ for early vaccine development.

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Chinese companies’ vaccines are progressing too. Sinovec Biotech’s vaccine, based on a chemically inactivated version of the virus, successfully protected rhesus macaques, a monkey species, from Covid-19. Human trials of the vaccine began on 16 April.

Oxford University’s vaccine based on adenovirus showed mixed results. An experiment revealed that vaccinated monkeys did get infected from Covid-19 but did not get pneumonia, lessening the intensity of the disease. Oxford University has also partnered with AstraZeneca for distributing their vaccine

Also read: Oxford’s Covid vaccine, being tested on humans in UK, fails to prevent infection in monkeys

Vaccine progress in India

Serum Institute of India has started mass production of Oxford University’s vaccine in anticipation of it passing trials, thus India can play a decisive role in vaccine distribution.

The Indian Council of Medical Research is also collaborating with Bharat Biotech Limited, a Biosafety level three lab, to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Thirdly, INOVIO, a US pharmaceutical firm, is in negotiation with some Indian companies to start producing DNA-based vaccine, which use the electroporation method to inject DNA into cells.

Chances of vaccine 

According to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we may never have a Covid-19 vaccine. However, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy & Infectious diseases in US said that as the human body has been able to produce antibodies against the Covid-19 virus, he believes that it is highly likely that a vaccine can be developed.

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