UK researchers working on a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 will receive £1.8 million from UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research to further develop their RNA vaccine through pre-clinical stages and into early stage clinical trials.
The team, led by Prof Robin Shattock from Imperial College London’s Department of Infectious Disease, is developing a self-amplifying RNA vaccine for COVID-19, which they have been testing in animal models since early February.
Early findings have shown that animals given the vaccine are able to produce neutralising antibodies against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Prof Shattock said: “We are one of a number of groups around the world currently trying to make an effective vaccine against COVID-19. The early stage work has been promising and so we’re delighted to receive this funding to take it forward to the next stage."
“Some of the other vaccine groups have already begun human tests earlier, but as our approach is still relatively new and has never been tried before, we need to complete the work in animal models to ensure it is going to be safe.”
The £1.8 million funding will enable the researchers to take the vaccine through GMP manufacturing, further testing in animal models for safety and efficacy and regulatory and ethical approval. If these stages are successful, the funding will also enable them to take it forward to a phase 1 clinical trial in healthy human volunteers.
Clinical trials are expected to begin in June, and results could be available as soon as September.