Wataru Akahata, CEO of VLP Therapeutics Japan LLC, thinks he can help provide a solution to the challenge of securing COVID-19 vaccines for billions of people — the development of a second-generation messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine that requires only a fraction of the dosage of those currently available.

The biotech startup will file an application for a clinical trial in June, with the initial stage, which involves dozens of volunteers at the Oita University Hospital in Kyushu and is used to evaluate safety, expected to start in the summer. Unlike the mRNA vaccines made by U.S.-based Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., VLP’s proprietary “replicon” RNA in the vaccine will self-amplify inside the body before producing antigen proteins, which would induce immune responses against the coronavirus.

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