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3 Frontrunners In COVID-19 Vaccine Development: What You Need To Know

Shanthi Rexaline

As companies race against time to bring to market a vaccine for the new coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — that causes COVID-19, three contenders have emerged as frontrunners, having advanced their candidates into the clinics.

Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA), Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: INO) and CanSino Biological Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology are those that have moved out of the crowd, even as the rest are either testing vaccines in labs, in vitro, or in animals in the preclinical stage.  

Here's brief on the vaccine programs:

Moderna

Name of the vaccine candidate: mRNA-1273

Type: messenger RNA vaccine

Status: enrollment ongoing in Phase 1 study

Moderna is working on mRNA-1273 in collaboration with the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The vaccine encodes a prefusion-stabilized form of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. 

The company said it took just 25 days to go from sequence selection to manufacturing of the vaccine, and 63 days from sequence selection to start of the Phase 1 trial.

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Source: Moderna

Study participants will receive two doses of the vaccine via intramuscular injection in the upper arm about 28 days apart, with dosages of 25 mcg, or 100 mcg or 250 mcg.

The company's timeline suggests a commercial launch timeline of 12-18 months. Under emergency use, the vaccine could be available to some people and health care workers in the fall of 2020.

See also: Gilead Analysts Break Down Remdesivir Data Readout From Compassionate Use

Inovio

Name of the vaccine candidate: INO-4800

Type: DNA vaccine

Status: enrollment and dosing ongoing in Phase 1 study  

Inovio said it designed the vaccine within three hours of the release of the virus genome using its P2 MERS candidate. The program is in part funded by Coalition For Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Inovio said April 6 the FDA accepted its IND for INO-4800, signaling the regulatory agency's nod for undertaking clinical trials. 

The company plans to enroll 40 healthy volunteers in Philadelphia and Kansas City. To assess initial immune responses and safety, each participant is to receive two doses of the vaccine candidate four weeks apart.

Inovio also said it has manufactured thousands of doses to support the ongoing Phase 1 study as well as a planned Phase 2 study. The company said is also working to scale up manufacturing so that it has about 1 million doses of INO-4800 available by year's end for additional trials and emergency use.

CanSino Biological Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology

Name of the vaccine candidate: Ad5-nCoV

Type: Adenovirus Type 5 Vector (non-replicating vector type)

Status: Phase 1/2 studies

The vaccine candidate is based on the viral vector vaccine technology platform previously used to develop an Ebola vaccine.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and Arcturus Therapeutics Ltd (NASDAQ: ARCT) shared a timeline for their jointly developed mRNA vaccine last week. The companies are targeting an end-of-April schedule for starting human trials.

Related Link: GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Collaborate On COVID-19 Vaccine Development: What You Should Know

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