(Adds background on funding, other vaccines in development)
June 4 (Reuters) - Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Thursday it plans to begin human trials of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in South Korea later in June, with support from Seoul-headquartered partner, non-profit organization International Vaccine Institute.
The company said the two-stage trial would assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in 40 healthy adults, and later expand to enroll an additional 120 people.
Inovio, among the several companies looking to develop a vaccine to combat the pandemic, is also testing its vaccine on humans in the United States. The company expects to begin mid-stage trials in the country in mid-summer.
There is currently no approved treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. Governments, drugmakers and researchers are working on around 100 vaccine programs at breakneck speed, but experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to develop.
Global epidemic response group Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in April announced a $6.9 million grant to Inovio for testing its vaccine candidate in South Korea. CEPI is a global partnership between public, private, philanthropic and civil society organizations.
Moderna Inc is at the forefront of global COVID-19 vaccine development efforts and its experimental vaccine, first to reach mid-stage trials, was found to produce protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data last month.
It was among the five COVID-19 vaccine developers picked by the Trump administration, giving it access to additional funds, assistance in running trials, and financial and logistical support, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The report did not mention potential vaccines from French drugmaker Sanofi, Novavax Inc and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Inovio’s vaccine is designed using its DNA medicine platform, while Moderna uses messenger RNA technology. Both companies have no approved drug in the market. (Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)