The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health, selected Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute as the first to begin clinical testing of a coronavirus vaccine.
This is how the NIH describes the vaccine trial: “The experimental vaccine was developed using a genetic platform called mRNA (messenger RNA), which directs the body’s cells to express a virus protein that, hopefully, will elicit a robust immune response. The mRNA-1273 vaccine has been tested in animal models and has demonstrated some protective ability.”
In an email exchange, Elizabeth Schainbaum of the Kaiser Permanente communications teams answered questions about the trial in Washington.
What Work Is Underway?
The trial is expected to take 14 months. It involves 45 healthy individuals from the general Seattle-area community, ages 18 to 55. The trial vaccine includes messenger RNA for the viral spike protein. It does not include any form of live virus, and the trial will not expose participants to the virus.
The research team has begun administering the vaccine to study participants, starting with the first four injections on Monday, March 16.
What Will Be Studied in the Vaccine Trial?
The trial is a small “phase I” test in a three-phase process examining the potential vaccine.
In this phase, Kaiser Permanente researchers are testing safety and antibody production, meaning testing (the safety) of various doses and whether these doses are producing an immune response.
This phase I trial is not studying the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing coronavirus infection. That will come at a later phase of the research.
How Did Kaiser Permanente Become Involved in This Work?
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute became a VTEU site in 2007, and it is the only one of the nation’s 9 VTEU centers not at a university medical center.
Since 1962, the VTEUs have played a key role in the effort of the NIAID of the NIH to develop new and improved vaccines and therapies against infectious diseases.