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Pharmaceuticals

Japan's AnGes aims to release coronavirus vaccine by end of year 

Clinical trial to begin in July as firm races to catch up with rivals in US and China

An AnGes researcher works in a company lab developing a DNA vaccine for the coronavirus on May 16. The company was able to move up the start of clinical trials from September to July.  (Nikkei Montage/ Source photo by Kyodo and AnGes)

TOKYO -- Japanese biotech venture AnGes is set to begin a clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine in July, Nikkei learned Monday, raising hopes that the medication could secure government approval by the end of the year. 

The clinical trial was originally slated to start in September, but the Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture-based company has been able to bring forward the schedule, following discussions with regulators and hospitals, thanks to promising results from animal tests, company officials said. 

Unlike standard vaccines, which use live or inactivated pathogens to generate an immune response, DNA vaccines use a genetic sequence that causes cells within the body to produce an antigen for the virus -- the substance that the immune system learns to recognize. 

This lets drugmakers skip the time-consuming step of cultivating the virus in eggs or animals, slashing the time needed for production to six months from a year or more.

DNA vaccines are already under development in other countries. Inovio Pharmaceuticals of the U.S., for instance, has been undertaking a clinical trial. 

The results of animal tests on the AnGes vaccine showed an increase in antigens in animals injected with the vaccine. 

Results for a small-scale clinical trial, to be conducted at Osaka University and Osaka City University, are expected to come as early as September and will be followed by a larger-scale trial. If the effectiveness is proven through these trials, the vaccine will be on course to receive approval by the end of the year.

The race for a coronavirus cure is accelerating in many countries, including the U.S. and China. At least 10 candidates are already in clinical trials. The U.S. aims to secure enough doses for its entire population and is assisting companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Moderna in their efforts to launch mass production.

AnGes, an Osaka University-affiliated biotechnology company, is planning to work with Takara Bio to produce 200,000 doses a year.

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