Usually development takes more than five years and requires significant capital investment, but US Biotech company Moderna, which is furthest ahead in the race, has already started tests on humans, bypassing the animal-testing stage.

Another US firm, Inovio, will start testing its DNA vaccine on 30 volunteers next month.

If all is well, the firm will then test it on 3,000 people in the US, China and South Korea.

Inovio hopes to have produced one million doses by the end of 2020 for more trials and emergency use.

Oxford University’s Jenner Institute is hoping to make a vaccine available within months.