A promising experimental vaccine for the coronavirus hit a milestone Friday, with British researchers announcing it will be progressing to advanced stages of human trials.
The team from world-renowned Oxford University told NBC News the expanded trial will involve more than 10,000 volunteers in the United Kingdom and will allow doctors to determine how effective the shot is at preventing a COVID-19 infection. The vaccine already showed success in protecting monkeys from “heavy quantities” of the pathogen in earlier trials.
“We’re thrilled,” Adrian Hill, one of the researchers leading the project, told the broadcaster.
If the trial goes well, the vaccine could be on the market as soon as September, according to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which has partnered with Oxford to manufacture the inoculation.
The company has promised to produce at least 400 million doses and secured total manufacturing capacity to produce 1 billion doses by the end of 2021.
AstraZeneca scored $1 billion from the US government to help fund the development and distribution of the vaccine earlier this week.
But hurdles remain. The initial tests of the vaccine in six rhesus macaque monkeys showed it was able to make COVID-19 infections less severe, but it did not prevent infection.
Oxford’s potential vaccine is just one of dozens being pursued by universities, governments and companies around the world as public health authorities desperately search for new tools to contain and eliminate the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 94,000 in the US alone.