Imperial coronavirus vaccine trial expands to more sites

Undated handout photo issued by Imperial College London of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by researchers from Imperia
Undated handout photo issued by Imperial College London of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by researchers from Imperial College London.

The coronavirus vaccine trial being run by Imperial College London will expand to additional sites across England.

From next week, the Covid-19 vaccine will be trialled in six additional centres.

Pre-clinical studies suggest the vaccine produces highly specific antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in mice, which were able to neutralise the virus.

The vaccine will be trialled in more than 200 people across six locations including Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London NHS Foundation Trust.

There are two more locations in England to be announced over the coming weeks.

The participants will be aged 18-75 and receive two immunisations, four weeks apart.

So far the vaccine has been trialled in 92 volunteers who are being closely monitored by clinical teams.

In addition to recording any potential adverse reactions to the vaccine, the team will analyse participants’ blood for the presence of neutralising antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The Imperial vaccine is based on a new approach that uses synthetic strands of genetic code (called RNA), based on the virus’s genetic material.

Once injected into muscle, the RNA self amplifies – generating copies of itself – and instructs the body’s own cells to make copies of a spiky protein found on the outside of the virus.

Scientists say this should train the immune system to respond to the coronavirus so the body can easily recognise it and defend itself against Covid-19 in future.

Researchers say that if the trials succeed, the vaccine may be able to deliver effective doses from relatively low volumes of the vaccine.

This lends it to rapid scale-up in manufacturing at a relatively low cost.

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading the development of Imperial’s Covid-19 vaccine, said: “The early results from pre-clinical data have been promising, and the expansion of our trial to additional centres will provide further data on the safety of the vaccine, and the immune response.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “I’m immensely proud of how quickly our scientists and researchers have come together in the search for a coronavirus vaccine.

“The Government is throwing its full weight behind Imperial’s exciting work with over £40 million of investment.

“While there’s still more work to do towards finding a safe and effective vaccine, I’m confident our best minds will rise to the challenge.”

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