Coronavirus vaccines are now being tested on humans in the UK - here’s how long trials will take

By Claire Schofield
Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 4:58 pm
The first healthy volunteer in a vaccine trial in London has been given a possible vaccination for coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)
The first healthy volunteer in a vaccine trial in London has been given a possible vaccination for coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)

While scientists across the world work to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, the first healthy volunteer taking part in the Imperial College London’s research has now received a possible inoculation.

The clinical team there are currently developing and trialling the Imperial Covid-19 vaccine, thanks to more than £41 million in funding from the UK government, and a further £5 million in philanthropic donations.

First dose ‘delivered safely’

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    A small dose of the vaccine was administered to the volunteer - who requested to remain anonymous - at a West London facility on Tuesday 23 June. The participant is now being closely monitored by the clinical team, who have since reported they are in good health, with no safety concerns.

    The dose is to be followed with a second booster dose within a four week period.

    The possible coronavirus vaccine has undergone rigorous pre-clinical safety tests, and has been shown to be safe during animal studies. It has also produced encouraging signs of an effective immune response.

    Potential to revolutionise vaccine development

    The current trial marks the first test of a new self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) technology, which has the potential to revolutionise vaccine development and enable scientists to respond more quickly to emerging diseases.

    Dr Katrina Pollock, from Imperial’s Department of Infectious Disease and Chief Investigator of the study, said that the delivery of the first dose signals a significant milestone in the study, after being administered safely.

    Leader of the work, Professor Robin Shattock, added, "The first participant marks an important step for our saRNA vaccine platform, which has never before been trialled in humans.

    "We now eagerly await rapid recruitment to the trial so that we can assess both the safety of the vaccine and its ability to produce neutralising antibodies which would indicate an effective response against COVID-19. I look forward to our progress in the coming months."

    What will happen next?

    Several other volunteers are expected to be given their first dose of the vaccine over the next few days, and will be monitored closely by the clinical team.

    The trial aims to identify whether the participants will produce antibodies against coronavirus after being inoculated.

    In the first stage of the trial, just 15 healthy volunteers will receive the vaccine, beginning with a low dose that will gradually increase to higher doses for subsequent volunteers. This is to assess the safety of the vaccine and determine the optimal dosage.

    A total of 300 healthy volunteers are expected to be given two doses of the vaccine over the coming weeks.

    If it is found to be safe, and shows a promising immune response in humans, larger trials will follow later in the year.

    For more information on the Imperial Covid-19 vaccine, including how to register as a volunteer, visit the vaccine trial website.