A COVID-19 vaccine trial on humans has begun in the United Kingdom.
The vaccine is developed by a team of researchers from the Imperial College, London and this is the first time it will be tested on humans.
The first volunteer has received a small dose of the vaccine and is said to be in stable condition while under close monitoring at a facility in West London.
On how the vaccine works against COVID-19, it will “train the body’s immune system to recognise the virus and help it to defend itself against a future attack” using “bits of genetic code (called self-amplifying RNA), rather than bits of the virus”.
“The aim of the vaccine is to trick the body into thinking it has already seen the virus and made an immune response, so when you come into contact with it in real life, you should already be immune.”
A first dose will also be administered to several other people over the next few days, while the second dose will be given within one month.
A total of 300 people have volunteered to participate in the trial in the initial phase.
The research team is led by Robin Shattock, a professor at Imperial College.
“The first participant marks an important step for our saRNA vaccine platform, which has never before been trialled in humans,” Shattock is quoted as saying in an article on the trial process on the college’s website.
“We now eagerly await rapid recruitment to the trial so that we can assess both the safety of the vaccine and its ability to produce neutralising antibodies which would indicate an effective response against COVID-19. I look forward to our progress in the coming months.”
The development of the vaccine has received more than £41 million in funding from the UK government and another £5 million in donations by philanthropists.
Speaking on the vaccine, Katrina Pollock of the department of infectious disease and chief investigator of the study, said: “We have reached a significant milestone in this ground-breaking study with the first dose of a self-amplifying RNA vaccine delivered safely.
“We are now poised to test the vaccine in the dose evaluation phase before moving forward to evaluating it in larger numbers.”
The UK Medical Research Council, UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the National Institute for Health Research, among others have supported the research effort.
“This astonishingly fast vaccine development – compared to the years it normally takes – is a result of the remarkably hard and collaborative work of the scientists, trialists and regulators,” Fiona Watt, professor and executive chair of the medical research council, said.
“These human trials will contribute to global efforts to find a vaccine, which is our best hope for preventing COVID-19 and enabling life to return to normal.”
Imperial College, through VacEquity Global Health (VGH), will partner with Morningside Ventures, on rapid development and distribution of the vaccine within and outside the UK.
As of June 23, 2020, more than 300,000 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK, out of which over 42,000 deaths have been recorded.