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Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine candidate in phase three testing at University of Maryland, Baltimore

Moderna vaccine uses a genetic code to trigger the immune system
Posted at 8:57 AM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 09:33:30-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — A potential vaccine for COVID-19 is undergoing testing at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine in Baltimore.

UMB’s Center for Vaccine Development is one of a hundred clinical research sites taking part in phase three testing of a vaccine from the bio-tech company Moderna.

Many vaccines rely on injecting a weakened form of the virus to prevent an infection but the Moderna vaccine relies on a genetic code which tells the body's own immune system how to fight back against COVID-19.

Finding an effective vaccine against the coronavirus could be the fastest developed vaccine in history.

University of Maryland, Baltimore president Dr. Bruce Jarrell said “I would be very pleased if we had something by this spring available for large numbers of people. I have to tell you that's warp speed, if ever there were warped speed in terms of developing a vaccine.”

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca recently paused it's clinical trials for a vaccine after a volunteer suffered an unexplained illness.

For a world anxiously awaiting a prevention for COVID-19, the rapid pace at which scientists are developing a potential vaccine might be a cause for concern for some.

“I think it's healthy to have concerns about things, which says to me that it's also healthy to make sure you've got many checks and balances in place,” Jarrell said.

Dr. Jarrell described what factors he believes will ensure the vaccine will be safe.

“So, that you're watching the trials carefully. That disinterested people, meaning no financial or other interest in this vaccine, they're looking at the results making sure that people aren't getting injured from this. We're not going to do research if we think it's unsafe,” Jarrell said.

UMB’s Center for Vaccine Development is accepting hundreds volunteers to try out a vaccine from the bio-tech company Moderna.

One of those volunteers includes Dr. Jarrell, himself.

“It's important for the senior leaders at UMB to participate in this, just the same as as everybody else. If it's safe for you, it ought to be safe for me too, and I believe very strongly in that,” Jarrell said.

The vaccine study that Dr. Jarrell is participating in, is called mRNA-1273.

While some vaccines are designed to inject a weakened or inactive form of a virus to shield people from getting infected, researchers testing mRNA-1273 are looking to see if Moderna's vaccine can help the body's immune system produce antibodies to fight off an infection of COVID-19.

“Which means that the actual genetic code of a reaction to this virus is produced by the genetic code of the human. It’s not a live virus, it's not a kill virus. It’s a unique piece of material so the risk of infection of the virus, is essentially zero,” Jarrell said.

With more than 150 vaccines in development worldwide, the race for a coronavirus vaccine might seem too fast for some, and not fast enough for others.

“This is a new approach, it's part of what's allowed us to go faster than usual, so hopefully, this methodology will work out,” Jarrell said.

Researchers at Moderna have stated that because their vaccine is not a live or kill virus that it can't cause someone to become infected or sick with COVID-19.

Moderna officials also report that there have been no serious side effects in volunteers since it was first administered to participants in March.