(Reuters) – Moderna Inc said on Thursday that it received a $483 million contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to accelerate the development of its vaccine candidate for the novel coronavirus.

The experimental vaccine is being tested in an early-stage trial conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Moderna expects to begin mid-stage trial in the second quarter.

Depending on the data from these studies and discussions with regulators, the company said a late-stage study could begin as soon as fall of 2020.

The drug developer said BARDA funding would support the vaccine’s clinical development program, as well as the scale-up manufacture of the vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, in 2020.

Moderna plans to hire up to 150 new team members in the United States this year to support the ramp-up.

Moderna’s study has made the most headway among efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to develop coronavirus vaccines as it is the first to be tested in human patients.

The vaccine uses synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) to inoculate against the coronavirus. Such treatments help the body immunize against a virus and can potentially be developed and manufactured more quickly than traditional vaccines.

(Reporting By Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru)