The trial will be conducted on 200 healthy people in the first stage. Meanwhile, the world's largest vaccine maker says it's unlikely Covid-19 vaccines can be mass-produced before second half of 2021.

The headquarters of biopharmaceutical company BioNTech is seen in Mainz, Germany on July 31, 2018.
The headquarters of biopharmaceutical company BioNTech is seen in Mainz, Germany on July 31, 2018. (Reuters)

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech says it has begun testing a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus on volunteers.

Turkish-born immunologist Ugur Sahin's company BioNTech, which is working with US-based Pfizer, said on Wednesday that 12 participants of a clinical trial in Germany have received doses of the vaccine candidate BNT162 since April 23.

Numerous pharmaceutical companies are racing to deliver a vaccine for the virus that has caused a pandemic and led to more than 215,000 deaths worldwide and sickened at least three million people.

BioNTech said in a statement that in a next step, it will begin increasing the dose of BNT162 in a trial involving about 200 participants aged 18 to 55.

The company said it expects to receive regulatory approval to begin trials in the US soon.

BioNTech's work focuses on messenger RNA (mRNA) which speed up the process for mass-inoculation.

Vaccine race and mass availability

GlaxoSmithKline, the world's largest vaccine maker, said the global push to develop an immunisation against the coronavirus would not lead to widely available products before the second half of next year.

"If things go right ... to get to scale of manufacturing in the hundreds of millions (of doses) is going to be in the second half of next year," CEO Emma Walmsley told a media briefing after the release of first-quarter results.

This would require swift progress in global development efforts to show an experimental vaccine is safe, effective and dosed in the right way, she added.

"You will see a reasonable amount of consensus from many global authorities, when this was all emerging, an 18-month timeline was an ambitious one to be going after but one that everyone is (targeting)", Walmsley said.

More than 70 global vaccine development projects are underway as economies across the globe are burdened by restrictions on movement to slow the spread of the disease.

Germany's vaccine body, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, said this week that seven of the global projects had started testing on humans.

GSK and rival vaccine maker Sanofi this month teamed up for a coronavirus vaccine project, the latest in a string of alliances that have seen the British drugmaker contributing its expertise on adjuvants.

Adjuvants are efficacy boosters that allow for lower dosing of the immunising active ingredient in a vaccine.

"The world needs several vaccines and there are several different approaches," Walmsley said. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies