Japan's KM Biologics begins clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine candidate

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's KM Biologics Co said on Monday it had started a human trial for its COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the country's third candidate to advance to clinical trials.

The first volunteer was injected with the inactivated virus vaccine known as KD-414, the company said in a release. KM Biologics, a subsidiary of confectionary maker Meiji Holdings Co, is also involved in the domestic production of AstraZeneca Plc's COVID-19 vaccine.

The two-course vaccine will be administered with a 27-day interval, KM Biologics said.

The study is a combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 trial involving 210 subjects to test the vaccine's safety and ability to trigger an immune response, the company said.

KM Biologics, based in Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, makes vaccines against influenza, hepatitis, and Japanese encephalitis.

Japan began its COVID-19 inoculation campaign last month with a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech PFE.N, and imported from Europe.

But production problems and import hurdles have highlighted the need for Japan to boost its own vaccine production infrastructure.

AnGes Inc and Shionogi & Co were the first Japanese companies to move their COVID-19 vaccine candidates into human trials.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Louise Heavens)