Moderna Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech company co-founded by Armenian entrepreneur Noubar Afeyan, has shipped the first batches of its COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine was created just 42 days after the genetic sequence of the COVID_19 virus, called SARS-CoV-2, was released by Chinese researchers in mid-January.
The first vials were sent to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, which will ready the vaccine for human testing as early as April, Time reports.
Moderna’s vaccine against COVID-19 was developed in record time because it’s based on a relatively new genetic method that does not require growing huge amounts of virus. Instead, the vaccine is packed with mRNA, the genetic material that comes from DNA and makes proteins. Moderna loads its vaccine with mRNA that codes for the right coronavirus proteins which then get injected into the body. Immune cells in the lymph nodes can process that mRNA and start making the protein in just the right way for other immune cells to recognize and mark them for destruction.
NIH scientists also began testing an antiviral drug called remdesivir that had been developed for Ebola, on a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2. The trial is the first to test a drug for treating COVID-19, and will be led by a team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The first patient to volunteer for the ground-breaking study is a passenger who was brought back to the US after testing positive for the disease aboard the Diamond Princess. Others diagnosed with COVID-19 who have been hospitalized will also be part of the study.