Novartis to produce experimental COVID-19 vaccine

Swiss drugmaker Novartis will manufacture a gene therapy COVID-19 vaccine for human trials scheduled later this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The vaccine, which is being developed by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear hospital in Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, will use an inactive virus to send DNA into the body. The DNA shows cells how to produce the protein found on the novel coronavirus's surface to create an immune response.

Novartis is producing test batches and will make doses for a clinical trial later in the summer, Dave Lennon, PhD, president of the company's gene therapy unit, told The Wall Street Journal. Researchers working on the vaccine said that the phase 1 trial will involve 50 to 60 people.

The vaccine could be available on an emergency basis by the end of 2020 if testing results are positive. Novartis has the ability to manufacture only a few million doses a year, so larger-scale production would need outside financing, according to Dr. Lennon.

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