Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Encouraging Early Results
Moderna coronavirus vaccine, the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people seems to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the virus, has shows promising early results from its first human safety tests raising early hopes in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the discovery is based on results from the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, starting in March.
Also, moderna coronavirus vaccine showed the key requirement for an effective vaccine as the healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55, made antibodies that were then tested in infected cells in the lab, and were able to stop the virus from replicating.
In fact, the levels of those so-called neutralizing antibodies matched or exceeded the levels found in patients who had recovered after contracting the virus in the community.
But the data have not been published in a scientific journal and are only the first preliminary step toward showing the experimental vaccine is safe and effective.
Apart from the fact that the results are encouraging, the findings do not prove that the vaccine works. Only larger, longer studies can determine whether it can actually prevent people in the real world from getting sick.
Moderna, the Massachusetts biotechnology company behind a leading effort to create a coronavirus vaccine stock, along with the Dow Jones industrial average, soared on the report that eight participants who received low and medium doses of Moderna’s vaccine had blood levels of virus-fighting antibodies that were similar or greater than those in recovered covid-19 patients. That suggests, but doesn’t prove, that it triggers some level of immunity.
Moderna’s technology, involving genetic material from the virus called mRNA, is relatively new and has yet to produce any approved vaccine.
An effort led by the University of Oxford, in partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, plans to have millions of doses of vaccine available by fall.
And last week, those researchers disclosed that more than 1,000 patients had already enrolled in the initial trial of its vaccine, which began in late April.
Vaccine experts have said that these accelerated development timelines are theoretically possible, but extremely optimistic — and depend on everything going right. They stress that it will be crucial to gather convincing data the vaccines are safe and effective before using them broadly — and the new data are promising but preliminary, from the earliest phase one trials that test safety in healthy people.
“I would certainly take this as good news, and it’s certainly worth moving forward” into later stage trials, said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There’s just historically, if you look at vaccine development, lots of vaccines that look good out of phase one that don’t turn out to be good products.”
“The fact that the vaccine elicited neutralizing antibody amounts comparable or higher to those found in convalescent sera [plasma] is very encouraging,” said Arturo Casadevall, chair of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who is spearheading the initiative to test plasma as a treatment.
Peter Jay Hotez, who is working on developing a coronavirus vaccine at the Baylor College of Medicine, said it would be important to understand the level of antibodies detected in the patients beyond the information provided in a company news release.
He pointed to emerging evidence that many recovered patients do not muster high levels after they recover — and that high levels of antibodies may be needed to neutralize the virus.
The vaccine showed few safety signals, aside from redness at the injection site for one patient and some transient “systemic” symptoms in three patients given the highest dose — which the company will not be using in future trials.
And the Drugmaker Moderna also reported that the vaccine protected mice who were vaccinated and then exposed to the virus, preventing it from multiplying in their lungs.
Moderna’s vaccine uses a genetic material called messenger RNA that codes for the distinctive spike protein that studs the outside of the novel coronavirus.
The vaccine delivers the messenger RNA to cells, which then follows the genetic instructions to create the virus protein — allowing the body to learn to recognize and neutralize the pathogen.
Also, Moderna researchers also said the NIH has helped test the vaccine in mice. After being vaccinated, mice were exposed to the novel coronavirus. Moderna said the vaccine “prevented viral replication in the lungs” of these mice.
Furthermore, these early human data on levels of neutralizing antibodies were consistent with the mice data.
The vaccine was “generally safe and well tolerated,” Moderna said. The company noted that at the highest dose level, 250 micrograms, three people have had severe but not life-threatening side effects.
“All adverse events have been transient and self-resolving,” the company noted, without further describing these side effects in the high-dose arm.