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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

March 22, 2021 by Anna Kovacevich

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Moderna has launched a phase 2/3 trial of its two-dose, mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 6 months to less than 12 years, the company announced last week. The KidCOVE trial, conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, will enroll about 6,750 children in the United States and Canada. The first stage of the trial will test how participants respond to different dosing levels, followed by an interim analysis to determine appropriate dose levels, and the second stage of the trial will test the selected dose against placebo shots. In a separate, ongoing trial launched in December, Moderna is testing its vaccine in 3,000 children aged 12 to 17.

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford reduces mild and serious forms of the disease, according to results from an interim analysis of a phase 3 trial in the United States, Chile, and Peru released Monday. The two-dose vaccine decreased symptomatic disease by 79 percent and severe disease and hospitalization by 100 percent. In its press release, AstraZeneca said the vaccine study identified no new safety concerns, and a specific review found no risk of blood clots—reports of which had led several European countries to halt rollout last week. Last Thursday, the European Medicines Agency announced the vaccine is “safe and effective,” noting its benefits outweigh the risk of potential adverse side effects, which appear to be extremely rare. AstraZeneca plans to request emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks.

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic's Florida Research and Innovation Center (FRIC) have identified a potential new target for COVID-19 treatments, according to findings published in Nature Microbiology. The research shows that the coronavirus enzyme PLpro blocks the body’s immune response, suggesting that therapeutics inhibiting the enzyme could help treat COVID-19 infection. In a follow-up phase of the study, the FRIC research team will investigate whether blocking PLpro’s enzymatic function, or its interaction with receptor proteins that help govern immune defenses, would strengthen human immune response against the virus. If successful, PLpro could be a new target for future COVID-19 therapeutics.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.