Photo/Illutration Wataru Akahata, who heads VLP Therapeutics Japan LLC, speaks about a new COVID-19 vaccine being developed by his venture firm at a news conference on Oct. 18. (Junki Watanabe)

A Japanese drug development venture firm has launched the first phase of a clinical trial for a new type of COVID-19 vaccine that can induce sufficient immunity using smaller dosages than existing vaccines.

Tokyo-based VLP Therapeutics Japan LLC announced on Oct. 18 that it aims to start the final phase of the clinical trial in the spring of 2022 to put the vaccine into practical use by the end of that year.

The vaccine the firm is developing uses self-amplifying messenger RNA, which multiplies after being injected into the body. It requires only one-10th to one-100th of the dosages that the Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccines use in inoculations.

If the company successfully develops the vaccine, it says more people would be able to get inoculated with it than with the same amount of currently available vaccines.

The new vaccine, as it delivers a lower dosage than currently available vaccines, would also reduce adverse reactions for recipients, the firm said.

Wataru Akahata, who heads the startup, founded the company in June last year. He previously engaged in research and development of vaccines at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

The company is jointly developing the vaccine with six Japanese organizations, including Oita University, Osaka City University and the National Center for Global Health and Medicine. Fujifilm Corp. manufactures the vaccine being used in the clinical trial.

VLP Therapeutics Japan will conduct the final phase of the clinical trial after examining the results of an interim analysis of the trial. It also plans to launch the first phase of a separate clinical trial for a vaccine targeting people aged 65 or older in the spring of 2022.

The health ministry announced this summer that it will provide 14.3 billion yen ($125 million) in subsidies to the venture firm to help boost its domestic production capacity.