A new vaccine for the novel coronavirus — which is backed by Bill and Melinda Gates — has entered phase 1 of human testing Wednesday.

What’s going on:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted an application from Inovio Pharmaceuticals this week. Inovio wants to start human trials for its new INO-4800 DNA vaccine that it developed after the company had successful trials with animals that showed immune response to the vaccine, according to the company.
  • The DNA vaccine is designed to prevent COVID-19 infections.
  • The company is calling for 40 health volunteers to participate in two different trial locations.
  • Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s president and CEO, said: “This is a significant step forward in the global fight against COVID-19. Without a new safe and effective vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue to threaten lives and livelihoods. It also demonstrates the power of our DNA medicines platform to rapidly develop and advance a vaccine for COVID-19 into Phase 1 clinical testing. Our dedicated team of staff, partners and funders have been mobilized since the genetic sequence of the virus became available in early January and continues to work around the clock to ensure that we are rapidly advancing INO-4800 through this Phase 1 study towards planned efficacy trials.”

Some context:

  • A vaccine won’t exactly mean much for now. Human testing can take many months, if not more than a year, to perfect, according to public health officials. The vaccine and its aftereffects need to be measured over time to make sure anyone who takes it doesn’t end up with troubling problems in the future.
  • But this vaccine isn’t the only one in the game right now. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh said recently that they believe they found a vaccine for the coronavirus because they were researching a similar virus, according to the Deseret News. The researchers said they had been studying SARS and MERS.
  • Dr. Andrea Gambotto, associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine, said in a statement: “These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus.”