US biotech firm Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response and prevented the coronavirus from replicating in the noses and lungs of monkeys, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine said Tuesday.
The fact that the vaccine prevented the virus from replicating in the nose is seen as particularly crucial in preventing it from being transmitted onward to others.
The same outcome did not occur when the University of Oxford’s vaccine was tested on monkeys, though that vaccine did prevent the virus from entering the animals’ lungs and making them very sick.
In the Moderna animal study, three groups of eight rhesus macaques received either a placebo or the vaccine at two different dose levels — 10 micrograms and 100 micrograms.
All vaccinated macaques produced high levels of neutralising antibodies that attack a part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus used to invade cells.
Notably, monkeys receiving both dose levels produced these antibodies at levels higher than those found in humans who have recovered from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said Wednesday they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France’s Sanofi in partnership with the UK’s GSK and is subject to a ‘final contract’.
Amid a global race to find a vaccine to halt the pandemic, Sanofi announced ‘ongoing discussions with the European Commission, with France and Italy on the negotiation team, and other governments to ensure global access to a novel coronavirus vaccine.’
Both companies voiced in a statement their commitment ‘to making their COVID-19 vaccine candidate affordable and available globally’.
The vaccine candidate ‘has the potential to play a significant role in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the UK and around the world,’ said GSK Vaccines president Roger Connor.
Sanofi predicted regulatory approval for the vaccine ‘could be achieved by the first half of 2021’.
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