The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a vaccine application from the Bill Gates-funded Inovio Pharmaceuticals to begin human testing of a new vaccine in the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The pharmaceutic company is planning to test the newly developed INO-4800 DNA vaccine candidate on its very first human volunteer. The request for human tests follows the positive results from the previous preclinical studies conducted on animals.
How does it work?
According to Inovio, for the DNA vaccine to work, a specifically engineered small, independent genetic structure called plasmid is injected into the patient. The plasmid allows the cells to create an antibody that increases the ability of the immune system to fight an infection like the COVID-19.
The challenge for Inovio is the human factor. DNA vaccines are widely used to treat animal infections and are used by veterinary doctors, but their use on humans has yet to be approved. However, if the human testing is successful, Inovio’s vaccine might be the key to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
Previously, Inovio managed to complete its Phase 1 study for a DNA vaccine to treat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another type of coronavirus. The results of that study showed a drastic increase in the number of antibodies produced by the test subjects.
Inovio moves forward through Bill Gates
Microsoft founder and billionaire, Bill Gates backed Inovio’s quest for the vaccine candidate through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Due to the funding received, the company managed to create “thousands of doses” of INO-4800 in the shortest span of time possible.
If the clinical trials show positive results with no complications, Inovio claims that one million doses of vaccine will be able to be produced by the end of the year. The vaccines created will be used for further advancement of the research and for emergency use, once authorized by the FDA.
Inovio’s upcoming Phase 1 clinical trial consists of 40 healthy adult volunteers who are properly screened at Philadelphia’s Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Center of Pharmaceutical Research in Kansas City.
The clinical trial will last a few weeks and the results will be released after. Depending on the responses from the human subjects, the vaccine will be announced whether it is fit for human consumption or it will undergo further improvements.
As the quest to stop the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Bill Gates urges rich countries to donate a small percentage of their GDP for the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
Featured image courtesy of Health.mil