As the quest for a coronavirus vaccine continues, a UK-based endeavour has announced it is expanding testing in humans.
The Imperial College vaccine, developed by Prof Robin Shattock and his team, has yielded promising results in mice, and has so far been given to 92 people, and counting, out of a cohort of 120 at a west London facility.
Now the team have announced the trial is to expand to cover a further 200 adults aged 18-75 across six additional sites, including Chelsea and Westminster hospital NHS foundation rrust, St George’s University hospital NHS foundation rrust, and University College London NHS foundation trust. Each participant will be given two immunisations, four weeks apart.
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.
The Imperial vaccine involves introducing into the body fat droplets containing the genetic instructions, as messenger RNA, that gives rise to the virus’s spike proteins – proteins found on the surface of the virus that help it to enter our cells. The vaccine is designed to trigger the production of these spike proteins by the body’s own cells.
The team hope this will stimulate an immune reaction so that, should the body subsequently encounter the virus itself, it will be primed to fight it off.
The Imperial vaccine is one of many currently under development around the world. In promising news this week a vaccine developed by a team at the University of Oxford was shown to trigger an immune response. This vaccine takes a different tack to the Imperial approach, incorporating genetic instructions for the coronavirus spike protein into the DNA of a harmless, non-replicating adenovirus.
But despite the positive news, there is a long way to go before a coronavirus vaccine is available: as experts have pointed out, it remains unclear what immune responses to these vaccines mean for immunity, how long any protection would last, and whether the vaccines will bring the same level of protection to older people as younger ones.
In the UK at least, it seems the government is hedging its bets. This week it was announced it is aiming to secure stocks of up to 12 different vaccines.