COVID-19 vaccine update: UK scientists to begin human trials of potential antidote
The first clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine will take place this week with more than 45 million pounds in backing from the British government and philanthropic donors.
A team of scientists at Imperial College London will start the first clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine this week with more than 45 million pounds ($56.50 million) in backing from the government and philanthropic donors.
This comes as scientists are racing against time to find an antidote to the novel coronavirus. More than 8 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, including over 436,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
The trials are the first human tests of a new technology which the researchers say could transform vaccine development by enabling rapid responses to emerging diseases such as the COVID-19 infection caused by the new coronavirus.
Robin Shattock, a professor at Imperial's department of infectious disease who is leading this work, said that rather than using a part of the virus, as many vaccines do, this potential vaccine uses synthetic strands of the virus' genetic material -- RNA -- which are packaged inside tiny fat droplets.
When injected, it instructs muscle cells to produce virus proteins to protect against future infection. In animal tests, the vaccine was shown to be safe and showed "encouraging signs of an effective immune response", Shattock's team said in a statement.
Around 300 healthy volunteers will receive two doses of the vaccine in the initial human trials to test whether it is safe in people and whether it produces an effective immune response against COVID-19. If it shows promise, larger trials with around 6,000 people would be planned for later this year.
More than 100 potential COVID-19 vaccines are in development around the world, including several already in human trials from Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, BioNtech, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Sanofi and CanSino Biologics.
The Imperial trials come after the team won 41 million pounds in funding from the UK government plus 5 million pounds in philanthropic donations. Business secretary Alok Sharma, said Imperial's was "one of the world's front-runners" and had Britain's full backing.
Another vaccine being developed by a team at the University of Oxford has based its design on a similar principle to the Imperial vaccine, but by using a benign virus as a host — running the risk of the vaccine causing immunity to the already harmless host virus rather than COVID-19.
The Oxford vaccine has already begun human trials, and if successful it will be mass produced and distributed across Europe by AstraZeneca which has already begun mass production in anticipation of its approval before the end of 2020.