The US$6 billion (£3.7bn) effort to develop a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is on track to be completed in about two years.
But the country’s top medical officials are also hoping for the breakthrough to occur within a few decades, in the same timeframe as a vaccine developed in China.
They want to make sure that vaccines made in the US and China will be able to prevent the next pandemic.
In an interview with the New Scientist magazine, Dr Joseph Sarewitz, the US head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the magazine that the vaccine was “very close to being done” and would be ready for clinical trials in 2018.
The vaccine was first developed by researchers at the US National Institutes of Health in 2001 and the first clinical trials were carried out in 2003.
The first vaccine is known as Gardasil and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in women of childbearing age.
The trial will see people infected with the virus vaccinated with a recombinant version of the vaccine, known as Cervarix.
“The next step is to look at whether we can do that in a way that it will be very safe for all those that are vaccinated and can also be used in the population,” Dr Saretsky said.
He explained that although the vaccine is made by a US company called BioNTech, it would be made by China’s Sanofi Pasteur, a private company that is working with Chinese scientists to produce the vaccine.
If the vaccine were made in China, it could be available to patients of all ages.
Dr Sareditsch said that the vaccines could be used on the same day of birth as in the United States, and could be offered to women as early as they were diagnosed.
The vaccines are being developed in the state of California, but a number of other US states, including California, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, are also developing them.
Dr Sareitsch also spoke of plans to establish a vaccine trial in China by 2021.
The US currently has only about 1,300 vaccine trials in the country, and Dr Saresitsch told New Scientist that if a vaccine were to be approved for use, it “would be the biggest single trial we’ve done in the history of the world”.
“We think the chance of us getting a vaccine to the US population in 2021 is 100 per cent,” he said.
New Scientist’s Andrew Webster is in China on a science and technology visit.
You can read more about this on New Scientist’s website.