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SAN DIEGO – Of the couple hundred companies working across the globe to create a vaccine for COVID-19, two are located in San Diego, and one of them reached a major milestone in the process Tuesday.

Arcturus Therapeutics started developing the vaccine in late January and said in March that the goal was to reach human clinical trials by summer. The Health Sciences Authority of Singapore, where trials are being conducted, just approved the company for the next phase.

“We consider ourselves in that first dozen in the race that everyone’s talking about with the COVID-19 vaccine and we would be considered a dark horse in that race,” said CEO Joseph Payne. 

The human clinical trial phase will begin as soon as possible in Singapore and will involve up to 108 people.

“Our vaccine is a self-replicating messenger RNA vaccine and this exciting technology was discovered right here in San Diego,” Payne said.

It’s a unique characteristic that allows the vaccine to be efficient at an extremely low dose combined with “lunar” delivery technology that gets the vaccine exactly where it needs to go. Payne says the two technologies combined have produced promising data in the animal trial phase with a 100% success rate.

About three weeks ago, another San Diego-based therapeutics company, Inovio, announced it was cleared to begin human trials for its own vaccine.

Payne says his hope is to see more than one company get vaccines approved by the end of 2020. 

“This is a race where there’s fortunately going to be several winners,” Payne said. “The demand is enormous and there’s going to be many vaccines and many companies that cross the finish line.”

Arcturus’ main goals of the clinical trial phase are to determine the vaccine is safe for people and to identify an ideal dose amount to apply to a much larger study before a final approval.