First Singapore volunteers given locally co-developed Covid-19 vaccine in trial

Lunar-Cov19 contains genetic material that causes the body's cells to begin manufacturing a protein similar to that of the virus. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - The first cohort of local volunteers has been dosed with a coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by Duke-NUS Medical School and United States pharmaceutical company Arcturus Therapeutics.

Arcturus said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 11) that this first phase of the trial involved volunteers aged between 21 and 55, who were injected with a single shot of the vaccine.

Data from this phase of the early-stage trial would be used to select the dosage regimens of the next phase, which will involve those aged 56 to 80, as well as younger adults.

Arcturus president and chief executive Joseph Payne said that based on pre-clinical trials, its vaccine may only need to be administered once, and at a very low dose.

"These favourable attributes could greatly facilitate mass vaccination campaigns necessary to control this global pandemic," he said.

As of last week, more than 250 people here had volunteered for the trials of the vaccine, called Lunar-Cov19 - but only around 100 were selected.

The trial, which is being administered by the SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit, is expected to last until October this year.

The vaccine, named Lunar-Cov19, was originally slated to begin trials in September, but had been approved ahead of time due to pre-clinical trials "exceeding expectations".

Lunar-Cov19 contains genetic material called mRNA, which encodes part of the virus. Injected into a person, it causes the body's cells to begin manufacturing a protein similar to that of the virus, allowing the body to recognise and learn to fight it.

This sets it apart from traditional vaccines, which inject a killed or weakened form of the virus into the human body to teach the immune system to recognise the invader and begins summon "soldiers" - antibodies and T-cells - to get rid of it.


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