Human trials on a coronavirus vaccine will begin in the UK this week, with researchers appealing for volunteers to take part.
Two research teams from Oxford University and Imperial College London have been promised £42.5 million of government funding, with Matt Hancock calling the search for a vaccine, “the top priority”.
The health secretary pledged the funding during today’s Downing Street briefing where he said he is “delighted” human clinical trials for a vaccine are starting in the UK this week but warned: “there is a huge amount still to do”.
500 volunteers to be tested by mid-May
The Oxford University research group, based at the Jenner Institute and led by prof Sarah Gilbert, has been working on the genetic code of the virus since January and will begin testing its vaccine on humans this week.
A small section of the coronavirus code is implanted into a harmless vaccine and delivered into the body of a human volunteer. It is hoped the volunteer’s immune system will learn how to fight off the disease and develop immunity to it, without ever being infected with coronavirus.
Gilbert’s group hopes to test up to 500 volunteers by mid-May. If it is successful, thousands more volunteers will take part in the trials.
Imperial tweet for volunteers – receive up to £625 ‘reimbursement’
Meanwhile, researchers at Imperial College London today tweeted an appeal for healthy volunteers, aged between 18 and 55 to take part in its clinical trials for a vaccine.
Imperial’s team, based in its department of infectious diseases, are also using pieces of genetic code which will be injected into the body with hopes it will generate viral proteins that the immune system will learn to fight and defeat.
In a tweet, the college’s trust said successful applicants would be paid up to £190-£625 “reimbursement for time, travel and contribution to the trial.”
Trials are being held in Bristol, Thames Valley, Southampton, and Greater London and people interested in volunteering can apply online.
NHS plasma trial in search of treatment for Covid-19
On finding a vaccine, Hancock said he would “throw everything at it” and told the briefing of the obvious “massive upsides” for the UK if “we” can be the country to find a coronavirus vaccine first.
Earlier, the health secretary tweeted,“Collaboration and innovation are key in our #coronavirus battle” and linked to a BBC story on a NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) appeal for blood donations from people who have recovered from Covid-19.
NHSBT said they envisage the plasma will be used in trials, which if approved, “will investigate whether convalescent plasma transfusions could improve a Covid-19 patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival.”
The statement continued: “All clinical trials have to follow a rigorous approval process to protect patients and to ensure robust results are generated. We are working closely with the government and all relevant bodies to move through the approvals process as quickly as possible.”