JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli research institute that is overseen by the Defence Ministry intends to begin human trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as early as October, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Thursday.
The Israel Institute of Biological Research (IIBR) would start the trials in conjunction with the Health Ministry after a series of Jewish holidays ends in October, Gantz said. The IIBR has been working on a vaccine for six months and began animal trials in March.
"All the initial experiments that have been successful ... give great hope," Gantz said after touring the institute in Ness Ziona, about 25 km (15 miles) south of Tel Aviv.
Shmuel Shapira, the IIBR's director, said: "There is an excellent vaccine ...We have the product in hand."
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman visited the institute's bio-chemical defence laboratory last month and was briefed on a coronavirus vaccine prototype for which it is seeking preliminary U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.
COVID-19 infections have spiked in Israel in recent weeks to reach 78,500, with 569 deaths.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Tova Cohen and Frances Kerry)