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Gaithersburg biotech company is entering phase 1 of clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine

According to the Mayo Clinic a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is the best hope for ending the pandemic. Could the answer be in our backyard?

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Today Mayor Bowser extended the stay at home order in D.C. through June 8. She says the District needs more time to slow down the spread of coronavirus. 

In Virginia, Governor Northam’s order ends on June 10, and in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan has issued an indefinite length on the stay at home order.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is the best hope for ending the pandemic.

There is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 yet, but according to CBS News there are 120 vaccines in development around the world, and, of those, only five have been approved for clinical trials on humans.

Novavax, a Gaithersburg based vaccine company, is one of them. They have experience creating vaccines for other respiratory viruses like SARS and MERS.

Their Chief Business officer, John Trizzino, say they’re just weeks away from phase one testing of a vaccine for Covid-19.

"We understand how this vaccine technology works. We understand the body’s response to this. And so it provides us confidence that the vaccine development program that we have underway here at Novavax will have a similar result," says Trizzino.

Novavax recently received approval for up to 388 million dollars in funding from CEPI, the Coalition for epidemic preparedness and innovations. Trizzino says that money is dedicated to the creation and testing and production of their potential vaccine candidate for COVID-19.

"They’re preparing for some need of 6 to 8 billion doses of vaccine needed around the globe," says Trizzino.

 At Novavax, Trizzino believes his team of 150 employees in the Maryland and 150 employees in Sweden can help put a dent in that global need.

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Doctors assessing scans

"With this effort underway and of course dependent upon FDA regulatory support, we could potentially have 100 million doses available before the end of the year," says Trizzino. 

By the end of 2021, Trizzino believes Novavax can produce an additional one billion doses.

RELATED: How are vaccines made?

But before that can happen, Trizzino says the next step is phase one of the clinical trials on human patients is set to get underway in just a few weeks.

"We know that they are safe because of some of the preclinical animal testings that we’ve done and so there’s a very specific pathway that allows us to demonstrate that it’s safe before we take it into human clinical trials," says Trizzino.

 According to Trizzino, the first phase of clinical trials on humans is taking place in Australia. 

There are 120 vaccines in development worldwide – the earliest estimate for getting a vaccine to market is from the NIH which believes that if all goes well with phase 2 of human trials for its vaccine, doses could be in production as early as July. 

More conservative estimates say vaccines for COVID-19 won’t reach the market for a year to 18 months.

RELATED: WHO: 7 or 8 `top' candidates for COVID-19 vaccine exist

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