Researchers in the UK are set to begin trialling a vaccine which they believe could protect against COVID-19 on up to 510 healthy volunteers, who range between 18 and 55 in age.
The trial will be carried out by researchers from the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton.
The vaccine is named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and was created from a weakened version of a common cold virus in chimpanzees, which has been mutated so that it will not grow in humans, coupled with protein-producing genes called spike glycoprotein, which play an essential role in the infection pathway of the coronavirus.
Professor Saul Faust, director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at UHS, said “There are not currently any licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19, but vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one.”
“This vaccine aims to turn the virus’ most potent weapon, its spikes, against it – raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock onto and destroy the virus.”
“This study will enable us to assess if healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine and it will also give us valuable information on its safety and ability to generate good immune responses against the virus,” he stated.
The study is likely to take place across five sites in the UK, with half of the volunteers receiving the new vaccine and the other half receiving a ‘control’, most likely to be a licensed vaccine against meningitis and sepsis.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 70 COVID-19 vaccines are in development worldwide, but the UK now joins only the United States (two studies) and China in beginning human trials.
Production of the potential vaccine has been increased in scale in order to facilitate larger trials in the future and potential deployment of the vaccine.
“By starting vaccine manufacturing scale-up immediately, the team can ensure that enough vaccine doses are available as soon as possible for the next trials which will include older people and children.
“Those joining the trial will be playing a critical role in the global search for a vaccine that protects us all, not least frontline NHS workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions,” Professor Faust concluded.