British volunteers to be infected with coronavirus amid scramble to develop vaccine

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (1st-L) visits to the Mologic Laboratory in the Bedford technology Park, north of London on March 6, 2020. - The Prime Minister pledged a further £46 million for research into a coronavirus vaccine and rapid diagnostic tests during the visit to the Laboratory, where British scientists are working on ways to diagnose coronavirus. (Photo by Jack Hill / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JACK HILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has pledged a further £46 million for research into a coronavirus vaccine. (Getty)

Volunteers from the UK are set to be deliberately infected with coronavirus as scientists race to develop a cure for the deadly disease.

As many as 24 human guinea pigs will be paid £3,500 to take part in the trial which will see them infected with a coronavirus and banned from physical contact with the outside world for two weeks.

Those taking part will be held in a special quarantine lab in east London owned by medical testing company Hvivo, according to The Times.

Scientists are aiming to develop a vaccine by next winter to protect the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

French lab scientists in hazmat gear inserting liquid in test tube manipulate potentially infected patient samples at Pasteur Institute in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Scientists at the Pasteur Institute developed and shared a quick test for the new virus that is spreading worldwide, and are using genetic information about the coronavirus to develop a potential vaccine and treatments. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Scientists worldwide are working to develop a cure. (AP)

A total of 20 firms and public sector organisations are taking part the a global effort to develop a cure, with more than $2bn (£1.53bn) invested worldwide so far.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson pledged a further £46 million for research into a coronavirus vaccine and rapid diagnostic tests.

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The Prime Minister announced the funding during a tour of a Bedfordshire laboratory, where British scientists are working on a quick and cheap way to diagnose coronavirus.

There is currently no vaccine available to protect people against Covid-19, but Mr Johnson said he hoped one will be ready in about a year.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has previously said the UK “will not have a vaccine available for the first wave” of a pandemic, but that it is still important to develop one for any future waves.

Global human trials of eight possible vaccines could start later this year. But firms would then face the task of mass-producing and distributing them.

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Public Health England (PHE) has developed methods of testing for coronavirus, but more rapid tests are needed as these currently rely on samples being sent to a lab.

Downing Street said the UK’s investment into Covid-19 vaccine research is now worth £65 million, with £91 million in total for international work to stop the spread of the virus.