Pfizer and BioNTech began late-stage human trial for coronavirus vaccine Monday

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In this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection.

University of Maryland School of Medicine | AP

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech said they began their late-stage human trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine on Monday as pharmaceutical companies race to win regulatory approval before the end of the year.

The trial will include up to 30,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 across 120 sites globally, the companies announced. If successful, they expect to submit it for final regulatory review as early as October.

The decision to start the trial reflects “our primary goal to bring a well-tolerated, highly effective vaccine to the market as quickly as possible, while we will continue to evaluate our other vaccine candidates as part of a differentiated COVID-19 vaccine portfolio,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a release. ”Many steps have been taken towards this important milestone and we would like to thank all those involved for their extraordinary commitment.”

The companies’ experimental vaccine, uses messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA molecules, to provoke an immune response to fight the virus. Scientists hope mRNA, which relays genetic instructions from DNA, can be used to train the immune system to recognize and destroy the virus.

Earlier this month, the companies said one of its four coronavirus vaccine candidates produced neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe is necessary to build immunity to the virus, in all participants who received two of the 10 or 30 microgram doses. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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