The first healthy volunteer has been given a dose of a potential coronavirus vaccine by researchers at Imperial College London. They were given a ‘small dose’ of the potential vaccine on June 19 and are said to be in good health with no safety concerns reported. The participant, who wanted to remain anonymous, will be given a second booster dose within four weeks. Imperial now joins Oxford University in the UK’s race to find an effective vaccine to stop the pandemic.
Human trials for Oxford’s ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine began in April, involving more than 1,000 participants.
Professor Robin Shattock, from the department of infectious disease at Imperial, who is leading the research, said his team’s work is ‘an important step’ for their vaccine candidate.
He added: ‘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.’ Fifteen healthy volunteers are expected to receive their first dose in the coming days as part of the initial phase of the trial.
To assess safety as well as to find the optimal dosage, the researchers are starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it to higher doses for subsequent volunteers. Around 300 healthy participants are expected to take part in this trial. Imperial’s RNA vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic.
It works by delivering genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the ‘spike’ protein on the surface of Sars-CoV-2. The presence of this protein provokes an immune response, offering protection against Covid-19. If the vaccine is safe and shows promising immune response, a further trial involving 6,000 people is expected to go ahead in October.
Dr Katrina Pollock, from Imperial’s 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.’ Imperial has also formed a new social enterprise called VacEquity Global Health (VGH) to develop and distribute its vaccine across the UK and worldwide.