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The US Army will start testing among adult volunteers an Army-developed Covid-19 vaccine that researchers say may protect against a variety of coronavirus variants.

Army doctors plan to start testing on Tuesday the protein-based shot in as many as 72 adults ages 18 to 55 at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., the institute said. The team will test whether the vaccine safely induces the desired immune response in study subjects.

Initial results of the study could become available by midsummer. If the data are positive, the Army likely would try to join with a drug company to further test and develop the vaccine, said Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the institute’s emerging infectious disease branch.

The experimental shot is among dozens in development, many aimed at improving upon available shots. Some 229 human vaccine trials are under way, according to BioCentury, which is tracking the efforts.

Army researchers say their vaccine was protective in studies of monkeys that were exposed to the coronavirus.

And lab tests suggest that the vaccine could be protective against newer, more transmissible variants of the virus, including those first identified in the U.K. and South Africa, Dr. Modjarrad said.

“This vaccine may be a good vaccine in terms of covering all different types of strains," he said.

If successful in testing, the vaccine also could be used as a booster shot in people who have previously received one of the now-authorized vaccines, to shore up immunity against variants, he said.

The vaccine could be used in the broader population, not just among members of the military, he said.

The currently authorized vaccines in the U.S.—from Pfizer Inc. with partner BioNTech SE; Moderna Inc.; and Johnson & Johnson—appear to retain some effectiveness against the newer virus variants.

Yet J&J’s vaccine was less effective in the South Africa portion of a large study, where that variant circulated widely, than in other countries where the study was conducted. And the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had a reduced neutralizing effect against the strain in lab tests using blood samples of vaccinated people compared with their effects on the original viral strain.

Scientists from the Army research institute developed their vaccine by hitching a copy of the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus onto another protein known as ferritin, normally found in human blood and containing iron.

The ferritin proteins form a multifaceted spherical structure that resembles the coronavirus. This in turn is designed to trigger an immune response that can help fend off the actual virus, if a vaccinated person is later exposed.

The vaccine also contains an ingredient called an adjuvant, which is designed to enhance immune responses.

Army scientists plan to use a similar design to develop a vaccine that could protect against not only Covid-19, but other coronaviruses as well, Dr. Modjarrad said.

Some volunteers in the study will receive one dose of the Army vaccine, and others will get two doses given four weeks apart. Researchers will assess immune responses from blood samples taken about two weeks after the second dose or six weeks after the single dose.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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