Two Finnish research groups developing COVID-19 vaccines, human trials likely before midsummer: report

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HELSINKI, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Two Finnish research groups are developing vaccines against novel coronavirus, one of which is likely to begin human trials before midsummer this year, Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on Thursday.

One project, led by Kalle Saksela, professor of virology at the University of Helsinki, and Seppo Yla-Herttula, academy professor at the University of Eastern Finland, aims to develop a nasal spray vaccine.

"At the moment, very similar types of products are being put into healthy volunteers. Technically, we are on the same stage in early summer. Our own vaccine is ready to be tested before midsummer," said Saksela at an interview with Helsingin Sanomat.

The other vaccine targets a later stage of the epidemic. Professor Mika Ramet, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the University of Tampere, and Vesa Hytonen, Assistant Professor at the University of Tampere, are involved in the research project, according to the report.

"The idea is that there would be something to offer nationally against the second wave of the epidemic," Ramet told Helsingin Sanomat. The group's vaccine could be ready for animal testing in the autumn this year.

According to Saksela, in the first phase of human testing, the vaccine will be given to a few dozen volunteers. The purpose is to determine the safety of the vaccine. In addition, it will be determined whether the vaccine produces the desired antibodies. Antibodies generated by the immune response elicited by the vaccine can then be mixed with the virus in a test tube to see if they prevent the virus from multiplying.

In late summer, after the first phase of the trials, consideration should be given to whether the vaccine could be given to at-risk groups, said Saksela, adding that he would like to be one of the volunteers to try out the vaccine in its first round of testing.

Currently, more than 100 vaccines are being developed around the world in the hope of stopping the spread of COVID-19, according to the daily.

Among a list of research projects related to coronavirus vaccine made by the World Health Organization (WHO), five have passed the first phase of human experiments and more than 70 are currently being tested on experimental animals. The list hasn't included the Finnish vaccine attempts yet.

As of Thursday afternoon, 4,284 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Finland, including 206 hospitalized with 60 in intensive care units. The number of deaths has risen to 172, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Enditem

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