Imperial College to start human trials of coronavirus vaccine

15 June 2020, 22:00

Scientists at Imperial College London are to begin human trials of their coronavirus vaccine
Scientists at Imperial College London are to begin human trials of their coronavirus vaccine. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Imperial College London will begin testing another potential coronavirus vaccine on humans this week.

Researchers will begin clinical trials in 300 people, to see whether their jab produces an effective immune response against Covid-19.

The healthy participants, aged between 18 and 70, will all receive two doses of the vaccine over the coming weeks, and the hopes are that tests could then move on to 6,000 volunteers if they are successful.

Rather than giving people a weakened form of the illness, the Imperial vaccine instead uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the virus' genetic material.

The research has been funded by £41m from the UK Government, as well as £5m of other donations, and comes after a separate vaccine from experts at Oxford University started undergoing human clinical trials.

It is hoped a vaccine could help the world get back to normal
It is hoped a vaccine could help the world get back to normal. Picture: PA

Testing of the experimental Covid-19 vaccine began in healthy volunteers in Britain in April with more than 1,000 people aged 18 to 55.

Another round with 10,000 volunteers began last month.

Other companies, including Moderna and Sanofi, are racing to develop and produce a vaccine against the new coronavirus, a step experts say will be crucial to allowing countries to ease their lockdowns and restrictions on public life.

Professor Robin Shattock, from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial and who is leading the work, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and had a huge impact on daily life.

"In the long-term, a viable vaccine could be vital for protecting the most vulnerable, enabling restrictions to be eased and helping people to get back to normal life.

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Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “I am incredibly proud the vaccine being developed by Imperial College London is one of the world’s front-runners. We are fully backing its research with over £40 million government funding, as part of our wider vaccines development programme.

“The fast progress of Imperial’s vaccine is testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of Britain’s researchers. If these trials are successful a vaccine will not only help us tackle coronavirus but also emerging diseases now and into the future.

Kate Bingham, Vaccine Taskforce Chair, said: “I am delighted that Imperial College have so quickly advanced to the clinical trial stage. Their self-amplifying technology has the potential to be a real game-changer, not only for a COVID-19 vaccine but for the development of future vaccines. It’s a great example of the world-leading life sciences sector in this country.

“By backing Imperial College London and their alternative vaccine platform, we have enhanced the UK’s vaccine portfolio, increasing our chances of identifying a successful vaccine.”

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