Human trials of a potential vaccine for Covid-19 will begin in the UK next week.
Imperial College London’s vaccine team, led by Professor Robin Shattock, have developed an RNA vaccine, which delivers genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the “spike” protein on the surface of coronavirus.
The presence of this protein provokes an immune response, offering protection against Covid-19.
The vaccine is now due to enter phase one and two human clinical trials on June 15 with 300 people.
A further trial involving 6,000 people is planned for October and if these prove successful, Imperial hopes the vaccine could be distributed in the UK and abroad early next year.
A separate vaccine from experts at Oxford University is currently undergoing human clinical trials.
Imperial College London has also formed a new social enterprise called VacEquity Global Health to develop its vaccine.
Imperial and VGH will waive royalties for the UK and low-income countries “and charge only modest cost-plus prices to sustain the enterprise’s work, accelerate global distribution and support new research”, the College said in a statement.
“The social enterprise’s mission is to rapidly develop vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) infection and distribute them as widely as possible in the UK and overseas, including to low- and middle-income countries,” it said.
We have spent an intense six months to fast-track our vaccine to the clinic. Now we are ready to combat the virus through our clinical trials.
Kate Bingham, chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, set up by the Government, added:
The progress being made in the UK to develop a vaccine that combats coronavirus is remarkable and the speed with which Imperial has progressed its self-amplifying mRNA vaccine has been breathtaking. Imperial’s technology shows great promise, so I welcome this further move to accelerate development of a potential vaccine. The UK’s Vaccines Taskforce will continue to work closely with Imperial and its new social enterprise and will ensure that they receive the support needed to accelerate the clinical development, manufacture and launch of its promising vaccine.