United States biotech firm Moderna on Tuesday said it planned to start the final stage of human trials for its coronavirus vaccine candidate on July 27, AP reported.

The announcement came after the New England Journal of Medicine published results from the first stage of Moderna’s vaccine trial, which showed that it was safe and all the first 45 participants developed antibodies to the virus. Volunteers who got two doses of the vaccine had high levels of virus-killing antibodies that exceeded the average levels seen in people who had recovered from the coronavirus, according to the researchers. More than half the participants experienced mild or moderate side effects, which is said to be normal.

The US government’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news”. The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc, will enroll 30,000 adults at high risk of contracting the coronavirus in the Phase III trials. This will mark the world’s largest study of a potential vaccine.

Moderna was the first to start human testing of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus on March 16. It said it will conduct the trial at 87 study locations, all in the United States. The participants will help compare the vaccine to placebo injections and evaluate two doses of the vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, to see if it can prevent infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or whether it can prevent the infection progressing toward symptoms, according to AFP.

The Moderna vaccine uses ribonucleic acid or RNA, which is a chemical messenger that contains instructions for making proteins to fight the coronavirus infection.

Moderna shares jumped more than 15% in after-hours trading on Tuesday after the announcement.

“The results look pretty good and look pretty consistent,” David Lo, a professor of biomedical sciences at University of California Riverside told AFP. However, he warned that more work was needed to evaluate the vaccine’s safety.

So far, no vaccine has been approved for commercial use against the coronavirus.

The global coronavirus count is now over 1.32 crore, while the toll has crossed 5.77 lakh, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 73 lakh people have recovered so far.

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