COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ)– Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have begun testing experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The research, funded by Pfizer Inc., will study the safety, efficacy, and dosing of an experimental mRNA-based vaccine.

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The vaccine research is being conducted in the UMSOM Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, and it is part of a multicenter study in the U.S. and in Germany that will include up to 360 participants in this initial stage.

“We are all here working very long days,” said Dr. Kirsten Lyke, a professor with the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Researchers said the trial will trick the body into thinking it has COVID-19 without any actual symptoms. They’ll then wait to see how the four vaccines being tested will respond.

“Our goal is to have a viable vaccine candidate that can go into mass production by the autumn,” Lyke said.

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In Baltimore, the clinical trial includes up to 90 healthy adult participants between 18 and 85 years of age.

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One of the participants is UMSOM graduate student David Rach.

“As soon as I heard about it, it was something I was interested in doing,” he said.

Like many people, Rach said he knows others, including members of his family, who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

He hopes his participation will help bring about a cure.

“My hope at the end of this is that we get a vaccine quickly,” he said.

For individuals in the Baltimore-Washington area interested in participating in this important vaccine trial:

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Ava-joye Burnett