PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia researchers are working on a COVID-19 vaccine that’s currently being tested on 20 people at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s using a new, unproven genetic technology that could be faster than traditional vaccine development.

This is one of about a dozen vaccines in the very early stages of testing. The reason there is so much interest and excitement about the one being tested here in Philadelphia, is its ability to potentially be fast-tracked.

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For the volunteers in this first phase of testing, there appears to be little risk.

“Helping to respond to this pandemic, this is like a wonderful opportunity,” said Anthony Campisi.

Campisi is one of 20 volunteers testing a COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I think it’s incumbent upon everyone to do whatever they can in a moment like this,” Campisi said.

Traditional vaccines made with a live virus takes years. However, this one from Inovio Pharmaceuticals in Plymouth Meeting uses a DNA replica of the coronavirus genome released by China.

Development could be much faster, according to Dr. Joseph Kim, the head of Inovio.

“Our plan is to manufacture 100,000 doses by the end of the year,” Kim said.

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This is phase one of the clinical trial, where the vaccine’s safety is tested. Campisi, who’s with Ceisler Media in Philadelphia, received his first injection on April 20.

“Absolutely no symptoms whatsoever,” Campisi said.

Blood tests will show if he’s developing antibodies to the vaccine — the first step to determine if it can train the immune system to recognize and attack COVID-19.

“I think a vaccine is the solution everybody is looking for. I don’t know if this vaccine is gonna be the solution,” said Dr. Pablo Tebas, who is leading the Penn trial. “I think it’s important that we develop different kinds of vaccines.”


Tebas says if this vaccine pans out, it should be available by the beginning of next year. Campisi is hoping.

“It would be very gratifying to play even a really small role in, you know, coming up with a response to pass this pandemic,” Campisi said.

Campisi, who’s 33, is a Penn general practice patient. He saw information about the trial in a regular correspondence with his doctor there and quickly signed up.

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The vaccine is also being tested by 20 people in Kansas City.

Stephanie Stahl