Moderna reports success in Phase 1 of coronavirus vaccine trials

There’s a little bit of good news on the Wuhan coronavirus front. Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine for the virus proved to be safe and to provoke immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers in an ongoing Phase 1 study.

No study volunteers experienced a serious side effect, but more than half reported mild or moderate reactions such as fatigue, headache, chills, muscle aches or pain at the injection site. These effects were more likely to occur, and to be stronger, after the second dose and in people who got the highest dose, a team of researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adverse effects after the second dose occurred in seven of the 13 volunteers who got a 25-microgram dose; all 15 participants who received a 100 microgram dose; and all 14 who got a 250 microgram dose. In the highest-dose group, three patients had severe reactions such as fever, chills, headache or nausea. One of them had a fever of 103.28. (Apparently, not all 45 volunteers got a second dose.)

Individuals who received two doses of the vaccine had levels of virus-killing neutralizing antibodies that exceeded the average levels seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

The volunteers ranged in age from 18-55. Moderna has expanded its Phase 1 trial to include adults over 55, but apparently these results are not in yet. Nonetheless, with the success of its tests on the population described above, Moderna should be clear to move on to Phase 2 testing.

Moderna says it is on track to deliver about 500 million doses per year, and possibly up to 1 billion doses per year, starting in 2021.

In other potentially good news, researchers at Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem and New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center say that the FDA-approved drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) could reduce the coronavirus’ ability to reproduce, or even make it disappear. They found that Tricor causes cells to start burning fat in lung tissue, thereby depriving the virus of what it needs to reproduce. In these circumstances, the virus completely disappears within five days, the researchers say.

The research team is advancing to animal studies in New York and hoping to fast-track clinical studies in both Israel and the U.S. within the next few weeks. Because the drug is already proven safe, the researchers should be able to proceed with the tests.

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