Moderna said the first vials of the experimental vaccine would be used in a planned Phase 1 study in the United States, which typically involves testing a vaccine on a small number of healthy humans.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a clinical trial of the vaccine could start by the end of April, with results becoming available in July or August, according to CNN.

The Journal, which was first to report the development, said that two doses of the vaccine would be tested on up to 25 volunteers to see if it produces an immune response that protects against the virus.

Even if the clinical trial is successful, further testing and regulatory approvals would be needed before the vaccine could be deployed widely.

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Health officials and pharmaceutical companies around the world are working at a breakneck pace to identify treatments or a vaccine to help fight the coronavirus, which has infected more than 80,000 people around the world.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci told CNN last month that researchers could expedite the approval process for a vaccine following a successful Phase 1 trial in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

Moderna is not the only drug company hoping to find a preventative treatment for the virus.

Pharma giants Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are working on vaccines, as are government scientists including some at NIAID.

Shares in Gilead gained nearly 5% on Monday after the World Health Organization said that one of its drugs, remdesivir, is showing signs of helping to treat the coronavirus.

While the experimental vaccine developed by Moderna remains unproven, the speed at which it was created represents a breakthrough.

According to Moderna, the vaccine was developed within 42 days of the company obtaining genetic information on the coronavirus.

By comparison, it took researchers about 20 months to start human tests of the vaccine for SARS, an older coronavirus, according to a journal paper written by Fauci.