Live tracker: Coronavirus vaccines to keep an eye on

A snapshot of companies and efforts that have ties to New England; that have major funding behind them and the ability to move markets; and that reflect a diversity of approaches.

Ryan Huddle Globe staff / Adobe stock

President Donald Trump has predicted that a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 could be ready as early as October and in mass distribution soon after. But Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently predicted that high-risk people such as health care workers might be able to get a vaccine in January, but it probably wouldn’t be more broadly available until spring or summer.

While the timing of a vaccine becoming available remains uncertain, there’s no shortage of drug companies and laboratories trying to get one approved. As of Sept. 17, pharmaceutical companies are working on 182 vaccine candidates, including 36 being tested in humans, according to the World Health Organization.


Each prospective vaccine goes through three phases of study in humans. To speed the process, some vaccine developers are conducting two of the phases simultaneously. Here’s an overview of each phase:

Phase 1: Trials involve small numbers of people, testing whether the vaccine is safe and provokes an immune response.

Phase 2: Trials expand to hundreds of people, comparing the vaccine’s effects in different groups and further testing its safety.

Phase 3: Trials enroll many thousands of people, to see if those who receive the vaccine are less likely to become infected than those who receive a placebo. Nine vaccine candidates worldwide have advanced to this stage.

Below is a small subset of notable vaccine candidates that we believe are of most interest to our readers. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or to indicate any likelihood of success. It reflects a snapshot of companies and efforts that have ties to New England; that have major funding behind them and the ability to move markets; and that reflect a diversity of approaches.

Here are 11 coronavirus vaccine efforts to watch

Moderna (Cambridge)

Status of clinical trials: Phase 3 trial started in July, and enrollment of 30,000 patients was completed in October.


Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said the Cambridge biotech will probably know in November whether its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and could deliver 100 million doses to the US government in the “first few months of 2021.”

On Oct. 20, the Wall Street Journal reported the US government could authorize emergency use of the vaccine as early as December.

Approach: The Moderna technology — called messenger RNA — inserts portions of the virus’s RNA into cells, which then manufacture a piece of the virus to trigger an immune response. The company set a drug industry record by producing its vaccine in 42 days after receiving the genetic sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Funding: On August 11, the government awarded Moderna $1.5 billion for 100 million doses if the vaccine proves safe and effective. This funding came in addition to the almost $1 billion already provided by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Updated Oct. 22

Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, N.J.)

Status of clinical trials: A 60,000-person Phase 3 trial began the week of Sept. 23. On Oct. 12, STAT reported the study was paused due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.

Approach: The company developed the vaccine with the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The vaccine uses a common-cold virus to deliver part of the coronavirus into cells to stimulate the immune system to fight off an infection.


Funding: J&J and BARDA have invested more than $1 billion in the effort. In August, the federal government agreed to pay $1 billion for 100 million doses if the vaccine is approved by regulators.

Updated Oct. 12

AstraZeneca (Cambridge, England)

Status of clinical trials: Phase 3 in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, and the US.

The company halted its vaccine trails on Sept. 6 due to suspected adverse reaction in a participant in the U.K. As of Sept. 12, only trials in Britain and Brazil have resumed.

Approach: In a partnership with the University of Oxford, the British-Swedish company has developed a vaccine that uses a weakened version of a common-cold virus to deliver coronavirus genes into cells to provoke an immune response.

Funding: BARDA has provided more than $1 billion in funding.

Updated Sept. 17

Sanofi and GSK (Paris and London)

Status of clinical trials: Phase 1/2 trials began in September. The companies plan to begin Phase 3 in December.

Approach: The vaccine candidate builds on work the French drug giant did in the SARS epidemic and employs technology Sanofi used in one of its flu vaccines. Sanofi is using one of GSK’s proprietary adjuvants, an ingredient for vaccines that can create stronger and longer-lasting immunity.

Funding: BARDA has provided $30 million in funding and the US government’s Operation Warp Speed is providing up to $2.1 billion.


Updated Sept. 17

Merck (Kenilworth, N.J.)

Status of clinical trials: Testing in people (Phase 1) to start later this year.

Approach: The drug giant is partnering with the nonprofit IAVI on a coronavirus vaccine related to the company’s existing Ebola vaccine.

Funding: BARDA has provided $38 million.

Updated July 28

Pfizer (New York City)

Status of clinical trials: On Sept. 12, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech submitted a proposal to expand their Phase 3 trial in the U.S. with another 14,000 participants. The companies aimed to seek regulatory review as early as October and plan to supply up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 if granted approval. But on Oct. 16, the company said it would not seek vaccine authorization until mid-November, after Election Day.

Approach: Pfizer, which has a manufacturing plant in Andover, Mass., is deploying technology similar to Moderna’s: a messenger RNA vaccine that codes for the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus.

Funding: Pfizer agreed to pay BioNTech $185 million upfront, and BioNTech has a debt financing agreement with the European Investment Bank.

Updated Oct. 20

Sinovac Biotech (Beijing)

Status of clinical trials: Phase 3 trials in Brazil began in July and Phase 3 trials in Indonesia began in August.

On Sept. 16, Sinovac submitted an application for a Phase 1/2 trial of the vaccine candidate in children. Sinovac signed a manufacturing deal to supply Indonesia with at least 40 million doses by March 2021 if the vaccine is approved.


Approach: The Sinovac vaccine, called CoronaVac, uses a whole coronavirus that has been inactivated, so that it will trigger an immune response without causing illness. Unlike most of the other vaccine candidates under study, this is a proven vaccine method. But such vaccines, which must be grown in cultures, take longer to manufacture than those based on the virus’s genetic material.

Funding: This spring, Sinovac received $15 million in private investment, as well as an $8.5 million loan from the Bank of Beijing.

Updated Sept. 17

Novartis (Basel, Switzerland)

Status of clinical trials: Testing in people (Phase 1) to start later this year.

Approach: A subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis is collaborating with Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital on a vaccine that uses a harmless virus as a Trojan horse to deliver the genetic sequence of the coronavirus into human cells to produce an immune response.

Funding: The collaboration has received a $1 million donation from Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck.

Updated July 28

Sanofi and Translate Bio (Paris and Lexington, Mass.)

Status of clinical trials: Not yet being tested in people.

Approach: The companies are collaborating on messenger RNA vaccines in a partnership that expands on a 2018 deal to develop such vaccines for as many as five infectious diseases. Translate specializes in developing mRNA medicines.

Funding: Sanofi is paying Translate $425 million up front. The companies hope to start a trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the fourth quarter.

Updated July 28

CureVac (Tubingen, Germany)

Status of clinical trials: Phase 1 in Germany and Belgium. Results are expected in early the fourth quarter, when the company also plans to initiate a Phase 2b/3 clinical trial.

Approach: The firm, which has about 20 employees at its US hub in Boston, is manufacturing a vaccine candidate that relies on messenger RNA.

Funding: The firm has received an $85 million loan from the lending arm of the European Union and a grant of up to $8.3 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Updated Sept. 17

Novavax (Gaithersburg, Md.)

Status of clinical trials: Phase 3 in the United Kingdom. Phase 2 in Australia and South Africa.

Approach: The company is expanding its manufacturing capacity and pursuing late-stage clinical trials. Its vaccine candidate uses protein nanoparticles, together with a proprietary compound, to generate and enhance the immune response.

Funding: The firm has been awarded $1.6 billion by the US government’s Operation Warp Speed, and previously received $388 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Updated Sept. 24

Design by Ryan Huddle/Globe staff.

Felice J. Freyer can be reached at felice.freyer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @felicejfreyer. Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jonathan.saltzman@globe.com. Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.