A COVID-19 vaccine candidate has shown encouraging results in a small Phase 1 trial in humans, according to drugmaker Moderna.

Effective vaccines work by activating the immune system enough to fight disease. Eight study participants who were given the trial drug, called mRNA-1273, had an immune response that was comparable to the response in people who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the Massachusetts-based company announced Monday. 

The drug also had success in a pre-clinical animal trial, preventing viral replication in the lungs. Taken together, the data “substantiate our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease and advance our ability to select a dose for pivotal trials,” said Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., Moderna’s chief medical officer. 

The company plans to roll out a phase 3 trial in July 2020, with the aim of filing for a commercial license if successful. “We are investing to scale up manufacturing so we can maximize the number of doses we can produce to help protect as many people as we can from SARS-CoV-2,” it said in a statement.

Moderna developed the drug in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. Private innovators have compressed the usual time-frame for drug development in response to coronavirus needs, say drug industry watchdogs.