More people are being administered test doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in Atlanta as part of clinical trials that have entered a new expanded phase, Emory University announced Wednesday.
The university, which is leading trials for a candidate vaccine that have shown promising results so far, began giving its first doses this week to a new wave of test subjects poised to reach into the hundreds in the coming weeks.
They will be among roughly 30,000 trial volunteers expected to enroll in vaccine trials at more than 80 sites across the country, the university said in a news release.
“As the death toll from this pandemic continues to rise, it becomes even more urgent that we find a safe and effective vaccine to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr. Evan Anderson, an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine who is a principal investigator for the trial.
“Having this trial take place at Emory gives Atlanta-area residents the opportunity to participate in a study that, if successful, has the potential to help stem the tide of this disease.”
Last month, the university announced early results from clinical trials dating back to March showed the candidate vaccine appears to be producing high levels of virus-blocking antibodies and interacting well with immune systems in 45 adult test subjects who volunteered for the project.
Trial investigators are now testing to see if the candidate vaccine can prevent COVID-19 infections or stave off severe symptoms including death. Test subjects will also be monitored for the next two years to determine whether they catch the virus or develop negative reactions to the candidate vaccine.
Emory researchers are also seeking volunteers for the trials, especially those from populations hit hardest by the coronavirus including Black and Latino communities and elderly persons.
Interested volunteers can apply by filling out forms or emailing the following:
Unlike traditional vaccines that introduce disease-causing organisms, the vaccine being tested at Emory involves using genetic sequencing to create proteins that mimic the novel strain of coronavirus and trigger a response from the patient’s immune system to erect safeguards.
These so-called mRNA vaccines can be cheaper and faster to produce but are less tried-and-true than traditional vaccines, according to the nonprofit PHG Foundation at the University of Cambridge.
The potential coronavirus vaccine, called mRNA-1273, was developed in roughly two months by the Massachusetts-based company Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which kicked off clinical trials in Seattle in March.