Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo Co. said Friday it aims to launch a clinical study of a genetic vaccine for the new coronavirus around March 2021.

Daiichi Sankyo said recent testing of its prototype vaccine on animals in joint research with the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Tokyo showed an increase in antibodies against the coronavirus.

If the clinical test is successful, it hopes to supply the vaccine "as soon as possible" in collaboration with the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare and other partners, the drugmaker said.

The vaccine it is working on contains messenger RNA, a synthesized genetic material that causes cells to produce proteins similar to the coronavirus that could trigger the body's immune response to produce effective antibodies.

Supplied electron micrograph shows a new coronavirus that was first identified in central China's Wuhan city. (Photo courtesy of National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan)(Kyodo)


As the global race to develop a coronavirus vaccine intensifies among pharmaceutical companies, U.S. biotech company Moderna Inc. is set to go into a large-scale clinical study of its vaccine using messenger RNA in July. In Japan, medical startup Anges Inc. plans to start clinical tests of its DNA vaccine as early as July.

As of Friday, the virus has infected over 7.5 million people worldwide and claimed more than 420,000 lives, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University of the United States.

Daiichi Sankyo established an internal task force in April to promote company-wide research and development on vaccines and therapeutic drugs for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The Japanese government is pushing companies and institutions to make every effort at developing vaccines, earmarking 205.5 billion yen ($1.9 billion) to promote development in a record 31.91 trillion yen extra budget for fiscal 2020 enacted on Friday.

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