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UMD researchers begin experimental testing for potential COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 9:52 AM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:07:53-04

BALTIMORE — Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have begun testing and experimenting with potential COVID-19 vaccines, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

So far there are no licensed vaccines or therapies for COVID-19, which has killed some 70,000 in the United States.

In Baltimore, the clinical trial includes up to 90 healthy adult participants, between 18 and 85 years of age.

The first participant was vaccinated on Monday. Researchers are currently recruiting and screening for others to participate.

As part of the trial, participants will receive two injections -- a month apart. The first group to be vaccinated will include healthy adults ages 18 to 55, and the next group will include volunteers ages 65 to 85. Researchers will investigate different dosages and types of vaccines to learn which one is most tolerated and produces the strongest immune response.

This so-called BNT162 program is a collection of at least four experimental vaccines made up of different mRNA combinations.

UMSOM describes mRNA as "a long molecule, composed of nucleotides linked in a unique order to convey genetic instructions about how to make proteins. Once inside of the body’s cells, it directs the cells to produce protein antigens, which stimulate the immune system of the person vaccinated, generating immune response to the vaccine antigen. It differs from a traditional vaccine because it is does not inject a virus protein into body."