Halden's technique boasts high sensitivity, with the potential to detect the signature of a single infected individual among 100 to 2 million persons. To accomplish this, wastewater samples are screened for the presence of nucleic acid fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The RNA genomes are amplified through a process known as reverse-transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT qPCR). CREDIT Shireen Dooling

US firm Inovio’s coronavirus vaccine trial on mice turns positive

US vaccine maker Inovio Pharmaceuticals said on Wednesday that its experimental vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection produced protective antibodies and immune system responses in mice and guinea pigs, raising hopes that it could provide relief if Moderna’s vaccine fails.

The company’s shares, which have more than quadrupled this year on hopes of its vaccine working, surged another 18% to $15.77 in early trading, reports Reuters.

“We saw antibody responses that do many of the things we would want to see in an eventual vaccine,” said Dr. David Weiner, director of the immunotherapy center at the Wistar Institute, which has collaborated with Inovio. “We are able to target things that would prevent the virus from having a safe harbor in the body.”

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, and more than 100 vaccines are under trials across the world, with more than 12 to 18 months to develop one effective vaccine among the candidates.

Apart from Inovio, other drug makers such as Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and AstraZeneca are in various stages of vaccine development. On Monday, Moderna said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.

Inovio said preliminary results from its human trial are expected in June. The 40 healthy participants in the Phase 1 trial are given two shots, four weeks apart, of the vaccine, called INO-4800, and then followed for two weeks.

“We are already seeing safety data and it has been benign,” Dr. Katherine Broderick, head of research and development at Inovio, told Reuters. “Some people have slight redness of the arm.”

Both Moderna and Inovio are focusing on specific genes on the outer “spike” portion of the virus for vaccine. Inovio’s vaccine was designed using its DNA medicine platform, while Moderna’s vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. Once the preliminary data is in, Inovio will seek FDA approval to move into a Phase 2/3 trial, which could happen in July or August.

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