Moderna Therapeutics, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Mass., has shipped the first batches of its COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine was created just 42 days after the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus, called SARS-CoV-2, was released by Chinese researchers in mid-January.
The first vials were sent to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, which will ready the vaccine for human testing as early as April.
NIH scientists also began testing an antiviral drug called remdesivir that had been developed for Ebola, on a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2. The trial is the first to test a drug for treating COVID-19, and will be led by a team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The first patient to volunteer for the ground-breaking study is a passenger who was brought back to the US after testing positive for the disease aboard the Diamond Princess. Others diagnosed with COVID-19 who have been hospitalized will also be part of the study.
Remdesivir showed encouraging results among animals infected with two related coronaviruses, one responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and another for causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).