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The US-based pharmaceutical giant, working alongside German drugmaker BioNTech, said the first human participants in the US have been dosed with the potential vaccine, BNT162. The human trials began last month in Germany.
“With our unique and robust clinical study program underway, starting in Europe and now the US, we look forward to advancing quickly and collaboratively with our partners at BioNTech and regulatory authorities to bring a safe and efficacious vaccine to the patients who need it most,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
“The short, less than four-month time frame in which we’ve been able to move from preclinical studies to human testing, is extraordinary,” he added.
The experimental vaccine contains genetic material known as messenger RNA, or mRNA, which is a genetic code that tells cells what to build—in this instance, an antigen that could create an immune response for the contagion.
The vaccine will test those between the ages of 18 to 55 in the first stage before moving to older groups, the company said, adding that it hopes to be able to test 360 people.
There are currently no FDA-approved therapies to treat Covid-19, and pharmaceutical companies worldwide are racing to produce a vaccine, which US health officials anticipate to take over a year.
Pfizer and BioNTech are not the first or only ones to be working on a vaccine to prevent Covid-19, which has infected more than 3.5 million, of which more than 1 million have recovered, and nearly 248,000 of whom have died.
There were more than 100 vaccines in development globally at the end of last month, according to the World Health Organization, with at least eight candidates moving into the human trials phase.
Though the hopes of finding a vaccine are high, scientists have lowered their expectations with how long the process may take. Developing, testing, and reviewing any potential vaccine is a long and complex endeavor that could very well take years, according to global experts.
Biotech firm Moderna, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, began the first human trial testing for a potential vaccine back in March.
Pfizer has set a goal of producing “millions” of vaccines by the end of 2020, according to the company’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Mikael Dolsten. The company is expected to increase to “hundreds of millions” of doses in 2021.
Locations currently dosing participants include NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Pfizer said.
The company said the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester Regional Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is set to “begin enrollment shortly.”
Assuming regulatory approval, Pfizer and BioNTech will work together to commercialize and distribute the vaccine worldwide.