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First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US shows promising results

Biotech firm Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine for COVID-19 showed it was safe and provoked immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers in an ongoing early-stage study, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

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 COVID-19, the team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Moderna is aiming to begin its final phase of testing for its coronavirus vaccine July 27.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company is the first in the U.S. to announce an estimated start date for phase 3 trials.

Moderna was the first company in the U.S. to begin testing coronavirus vaccines in humans, giving its first dose March 16.

Tuesday, Moderna published data from its phase 1 clinical trial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

That trial, which involved 45 participants, was meant to test a new drug’s safety, not its effectiveness. But the company said results from all 45 participants showed they developed antibodies key to fighting the virus at levels up to four times the amount found in patients who got sick and then recovered from the virus.

“These are the kinds of results that you want to see from an early trial,” Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, said.

Moderna’s chief executive officer, Stéphane Bancel, said in a statement that the company is “committed to advancing the clinical development” of the vaccine “as quickly and safely as possible while investing to scale up manufacturing so that we can help address this global health emergency.”

The company estimates it could deliver 500 million doses per year, starting in 2021.

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