May 26, 2020 - Science

Novavax starts human trials for coronavirus vaccine

AA computer model showing the protein structure of a potential coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccine at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on March 20

Novavax's Nita Patel with a computer model showing the protein structure of a potential coronavirus vaccine at the lab in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in March. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Novavax began clinical trials of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus in Australia on Tuesday, per a statement from the Maryland-based biotechnology firm.

The state of play: 131 volunteers in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Brisbane will undergo injections as part of the study, the company's research chief Gregory Glenn said during a briefing, per Australian Associated Press.

  • "We are in parallel making doses, making vaccine in anticipation that we'll be able to show it's working and be able to start deploying it by the end of this year," he added.

Of note: Tests on animals indicated the vaccine is effective in low doses, according to Novavax.

How it works: "Novavax used genetic engineering to grow harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in giant vats of insect cells in a laboratory," AP reports. "Scientists extracted and purified the protein, and packaged it into virus-sized nanoparticles."

What's next: The results of this first phase of the trials are expected in July.

  • Novavax plans a second phase of the study in multiple countries including the U.S. if the first proves fruitful. This would also examine whether COVID-19 is reduced by the vaccine.

The big picture: There are at least 92 vaccines under development for COVID-19. 22 of these are experimental DNA- or RNA-based vaccines that provide the most hope for speedy development, per Axios' Alison Snyder and Eileen Drage O'Reilly.

By the numbers: COVID-19 has killed more than 346,000 people worldwide, including over 98,000 in the U.S. Almost 5.5 million have tested positive for the virus — over 1.6 million of whom are in the U.S.
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