Coronavirus vaccine could begin human trials in three months

Coronavirus vaccine could begin human trials in three months
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A top official at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said Wednesday that human trials for a vaccine to counter a new strain of coronavirus behind an outbreak of viral pneumonia in China could begin within three months.

In an interview with Bloomberg Law, the director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that his agency is working with Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech company Moderna Inc. to develop a vaccine for the disease.

“We’re already working on it," Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg. "And hopefully in a period of about three months, we’ll be able to start a phase one trial in humans."

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Fauci added that his agency was also working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain information about how to help physicians around the world identify the disease's symptoms.

“Obviously as is always the case when we have these outbreaks, it’s a lot of collaboration and synergy between the CDC and the WHO and the NIH," he said. "Our job ultimately is to develop countermeasures."

Hundreds of people in China have been sickened by the outbreak, which is thought to have originated in the country's Wuhan province, and in particular at a seafood market now closed by authorities. Nine deaths related to the disease have been reported so far.

China's president, Xi Jinping, on Monday urged local health officials to collaborate and work to stop the spread of the disease in his first public comments about the outbreak.

“The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and other places must be taken seriously,” Xi said. “Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.”

Health officials in the U.S. enacted screenings for the virus in airports in Atlanta and Chicago; officials in South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan have reportedly implemented similar measures.