Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine trial begins

March 17, 2020
After a Monday that felt like it was three weeks long, we’ve got some good news: the first COVID-19 vaccine trial started yesterday, and consumers like gene-edited foods once they have information about them. Here are 825 words, about 4 minutes. P.S. Happy St. Patrick…

After a Monday that felt like it was three weeks long, we’ve got some good news: the first COVID-19 vaccine trial started yesterday, and consumers like gene-edited foods once they have information about them. Here are 825 words, about 4 minutes.

P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. FYI: Beer and whiskey, Irish or not, taste almost as good at home as they do in a crowded bar—and they’re cheaper.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine trial begins

BIO member Moderna began its coronavirus vaccine trial in Washington State, reports the AP. Here’s the scoop.

Yesterday, 4 healthy volunteers got the shot at Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, one of the hot spots of the outbreak in the United States. 

Over the next two months, 45 volunteers ages 18-55 will get two doses of the trial vaccine. They will be followed for one year to see if the vaccine is safe and “induces the kind of response” to show it could potentially be effective, confirmed Dr. Anthony Fauci during yesterday’s Coronavirus Task Force press briefing

Named mRNA-1273, the vaccine uses Moderna Inc.’s messenger RNA technology, which is a faster process and produces vaccines that don’t contain any of the actual virus. Study participants will receive different dosages to determine which strength is best. 

What they’re saying: “I said it would be two to three months, and if we did that, that would be the fastest we’ve ever gone from obtaining the sequence to being able to do a Phase I trial. This has been now 65 days, which I believe is the record,” said Dr. Fauci.

What’s next: Even if everything goes well, a vaccine will not be available for widespread use for 12-18 months, reports the AP—but nonetheless we’re celebrating this achievement by the U.S. biotech industry now. Meanwhile, BIO members continue R&D on other kinds of vaccines and treatments while others have committed to offering manufacturing capacity, regardless of which company finds the successful therapies. 

We’ll say it again: If any industry is equipped to collaborate at the level needed to translate the science into solutions for the coronavirus pandemic, it’s U.S. biotech.


More Health Care News: 

Biopharma Dive: Fosun, Pfizer to help BioNTech join the mRNA race for a coronavirus vaccine
“BioNTech will work with China's Fosun Pharma to commercialize the vaccine—dubbed BNT162—in China and is in ‘advanced discussions' with existing partner Pfizer to do the same elsewhere. BioNTech will start human testing of the vaccine candidate next month.”

Biopharma Dive: Regeneron and Sanofi speed Kevzara into coronavirus trials
“Rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara will be used in an international study of patients infected with the new coronavirus and suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome…The trial will kick off in disease hotspot New York City, expanding to a total of 16 U.S. sites and enrolling 400 patients.”

STAT: As the coronavirus spreads, a drug that once raised the world’s hopes is given a second shot
“There’s only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy,” Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization said last month. “And that’s remdesivir.”


Consumers are hungry for more info about gene-edited foods

A new study finds more than 50% of American consumers haven’t heard of gene editing—but they’re willing to pay “premium prices” for gene-edited foods when they understand the benefits, reports Agri-Pulse.

The study: Consumer Acceptance of Gene Edited Food was conducted by the FMI Foundation, American Seed Trade Association, and other farm and food organizations and universities to study U.S. consumer beliefs, knowledge and understanding of, and willingness to pay for gene-edited foods. 

Consumers don’t understand gene editing. Between 49-53% of the 4,400+ consumers surveyed said they had never heard of gene editing, while only 11-15% claim to know a lot about the technology.

And lack of knowledge creates negative perceptions. “Respondents completed open-ended word association tasks, which revealed fear associated with the unknown. Negatively connoted words dominated mentions in relation to ‘gene editing.’ Furthermore, these mentions closely resembled those given for genetically modified products,” finds the study. 

But the more they know, the more they value it. “Despite negative perceptions of gene editing the report found consumers are more willing to pay a price-premium for gene-edited products depending on the type of information provided to consumers,” explains Agri-Pulse. “Consumers are more willing to purchase gene-edited foods when they know the specific benefits to the environment and animal health.”

One problem: There’s only one gene-edited animal food product available, AquaBounty salmon, and between the high regulatory barriers and the widespread misinformation and negative perceptions about the technology, it’s tough to get this food to market. This study shows the need for more education to help.

This is why we’re working on both the regulatory barriers and the misconceptions—explaining how gene-edited food and crops are safe, healthy, and can help solve food-related challenges related to climate change and population growth, if we let them.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Tuesday: More coronavirus response planning, with the restaurant and tourism industries and supply retailers and wholesalers. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Yesterday, the House worked out “technical corrections” to the emergency coronavirus bill, and the Senate’s expected to take it up today. Lawmakers continue to work on two more stimulus packages, as well. But expect a lot of work to be done via phone call: Washington DC is mostly shut down, and the House is expected to stay on recess until there’s another coronavirus package ready for a vote.

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