Germany approves third trial of COVID-19 vaccine candidate

BERLIN (Reuters) - Unlisted biotech firm IDT Biologika has won approval from Germany's vaccine regulator to become the third German company after BioNTech and CureVac to launch human trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine in the country.

The trial of the vaccine, which has been developed with the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), will be conducted on 30 participants aged between 18 and 55 who will receive two vaccinations at four-week intervals.

A larger Phase II trial, which will include elderly volunteers, is planned for the end of this year if the results of the early-stage study show the vaccine is safe and produces an immune response.

Based in Dessau-Rosslau in east Germany, IDT produces viral vaccines for pharmaceutical companies and is assisting in six COVID-19 projects including AstraZeneca's experimental shot against COVID-19.

Its own so-called viral vector vaccine is based on a modified and harmless smallpox virus that has already been used to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus that causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Hundreds of potential COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of development, with 41 prospects in human trials across the globe.

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Russia and China have already deployed shots before full efficacy trials have been concluded, and front-runners from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are likely to have final-stage trial results before year-end.

Germany has awarded vaccine makers BioNTech and CureVac 627 million euros ($734.78 million) to help speed up work on their COVID-19 shots and expand German production capacity. It is also in talks with IDT about providing funding.

($1 = 0.8533 euros)

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Michelle Adair)

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