Experts are racing all over the world to develop agents that can stop the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected 2.5 million people in the past four months.
With research already underway in the US and UK, just to name a few countries, Germany has just taken a big step, authorizing the first clinical trials of vaccines in humans. The first test will begin before the end of the month, after the official green light by the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the regulatory authority that helps develop and authorize vaccines in Germany. They will initially include 200 healthy participants, expanding the group at a later stage.
“Testing vaccine candidates in humans is an important milestone in the journey to a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 for populations in Germany and internationally,” PEI said in a statement.
The vaccine, known as BNT162b1, was developed by cancer researcher and immunologist Ugur Sahin and his team at the pharmaceutical company BioNTech. This is based on their previous research in cancer immunology.
Sahin said BNT162b1 was an RNA vaccine. Harmless genetic information from viruses is transferred to human cells with the help of nano lipid particles. The cells then convert this genetic information into protein, which should stimulate the body’s immune response to the new corona virus.
PEI head Klaus Cichutek said the test would be completed by June at the latest. After this stage is completed, PEI will determine whether the vaccine can proceed to the further experimental stage. Cichutek warned, however, that an approved vaccine might not be ready for the general public by 2020.
There are currently no approved vaccines or drugs for COVID-19 disease. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the only vaccine was to restore “normality” to the world and called for accelerated development projects.
In addition to BioNTech, four other clinical trials in humans have been approved worldwide since mid-March, with Chinese and US developers among the first to start. Beijing approved the mid-March first trial for a vaccine developed by the Military Academy of Military-Supported Military and Biotechnology companies registered in Hong Kong, CanSino. Meanwhile, the US drug developer Moderna also started the test on the same date.
In England, volunteers in an experiment at Oxford University were recently given the first dose of a potential vaccine based on viruses found in chimpanzees. The Oxford trial, run by the university’s Jenner Institute, will involve 510 volunteers aged between 18 and 55 years in the first phase.
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