Imperial College London to start human Covid-19 vaccine trials

Human trials of a potential vaccine for Covid-19 will begin in the UK next week.

Imperial College London’s vaccine team, led by Professor Robin Shattock, have developed an RNA vaccine, which delivers genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the “spike” protein on the surface of coronavirus.

The presence of this protein provokes an immune response, offering protection against Covid-19.

The vaccine is now due to enter phase one and two human clinical trials on June 15 with 300 people.

A further trial involving 6,000 people is planned for October and if these prove successful, Imperial hopes the vaccine could be distributed in the UK and abroad early next year.

A separate vaccine from experts at Oxford University is currently undergoing human clinical trials.

Imperial College London has also formed a new social enterprise called VacEquity Global Health (VGH) to develop its vaccine.

Imperial and VGH will waive royalties for the UK and low-income countries “and charge only modest cost-plus prices to sustain the enterprise’s work, accelerate global distribution and support new research”, the College said in a statement.

“The social enterprise’s mission is to rapidly develop vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) infection and distribute them as widely as possible in the UK and overseas, including to low- and middle-income countries,” it said.

Prof Shattock added: “We have spent an intense six months to fast-track our vaccine to the clinic. Now we are ready to combat the virus through our clinical trials.

“We are grateful to the thousands of people helping us advance the vaccine: from donors, investors and the Government to volunteers for our clinical trials.

“These new enterprises are the most effective way for us to deliver Covid-19 vaccines quickly, cheaply and internationally, while preparing for future pandemics.”

Gerald Chan, co-founder of Morningside, a private equity and venture capital investments group which is supporting the move, said: “No medical intervention has saved more lives in human history than vaccines.

“The Imperial vaccine technology is a ground-breaking innovation that is readily scalable.

“This technology has been developed with scientific rigour and a regard for manufacturing scale that is required for any solution to the present pandemic.”

Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, set up by the Government, said: “The progress being made in the UK to develop a vaccine that combats coronavirus is remarkable and the speed with which Imperial has progressed its self-amplifying mRNA vaccine has been breathtaking.

“Imperial’s technology shows great promise, so I welcome this further move to accelerate development of a potential vaccine.

“The UK’s Vaccines Taskforce will continue to work closely with Imperial and its new social enterprise and will ensure that they receive the support needed to accelerate the clinical development, manufacture and launch of its promising vaccine.”