This week, clinical researchers are set to begin human trials of a new coronavirus vaccine developed by researchers at Imperial College London.
The study will be the first time the vaccine has been trialled in humans and will test whether it is well-tolerated and produces an effective immune response against COVID-19.
The vaccine has undergone rigorous pre-clinical safety tests, and in animal studies, it has been shown to be safe and produced encouraging signs of an effective immune response.
Over the coming weeks, 300 healthy participants will receive two doses of the vaccine. If it proves safe and effective, a larger phase 3 trials will begin later this year with around 6000 healthy volunteers.
Professor Robin Shattock, from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College and who is leading the work, said: “From a scientific perspective, new technologies mean we have been able to get moving on a potential vaccine with unprecedented speed. We’ve been able to produce a vaccine from scratch and take it to human trials in just a few months - from code to candidate - which has never been done before with this type of vaccine. If our approach works and the vaccine provides effective protection against disease, it could revolutionise how we respond to disease outbreaks in future.”
Unlike traditional vaccines, the Imperial vaccine uses synthetic strands of RNA, rather than a part of the virus. The vaccine consists of RNA strands packaged inside fat droplets. When injected, it instructs muscle cells to produce virus proteins. It does not create copies of the virus and does not cause changes to the cell’s own DNA.
The researchers are hopeful a viable vaccine could be available as early as Spring 2021.