A potential coronavirus vaccine, developed by Oxford University, will begin testing on humans in the United Kingdom Thursday (April 22).
British Health Minister Matt Hancock announced that 510 volunteers from the ages of 18 to 55, who were recruited at the end of March, are going to take part in this monumental study, which is expected to last for six months.
The government of the U.K. shelled out £20 million ($24 million) to fund the study, while another £22.5 million ($27.6 million) has been coursed through separate vaccine research undertaken by the Imperial College London.
“In normal times, reaching this stage would take years, and I’m very proud of the work taken so far,” Hancock said during the press briefing. “This is uncertain science but I’m certain that we will throw everything we’ve got at finding a vaccine,” the health secretary said, adding, “We’ve put more money than any other country into the global search for a vaccine.”
Oxford University’s trial is a collaboration between the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. The experts developed and genetically mutated the vaccine from adenovirus, a weakened version of a common cold virus, combined with the glycoprotein from the COVID-19 virus SARS-CoV-2.
“This vaccine aims to turn the virus’ most potent weapon, its spikes, against it – raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock onto and destroy the virus,” Professor Saul Faust, the director of the clinical facility, said.
The U.K. human trial comes as it has 130,175 positive cases and 17,337 deaths as of April 21, per the Johns Hopkins Medicine tally. Experts, however, said that the country is past its peak. Prof. Carl Heneghan of Oxford University said that London, the epicenter in the U.K., peaked even earlier.
“We are not out of danger yet. We must keep pushing on this,” Prof. Jonathan Van Tam, the country’s deputy medical officer said, per BBC.
Meanwhile, there are over 70 coronavirus vaccines being developed around the world. In the United States, an Inovio Pharmaceuticals human trial, partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been underway in Kansas City, Missouri, since the beginning of April with 40 participants.
In mid-May, Novavax will begin its clinical trials involving 130 volunteers. It has received funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation.
Moderna is also gearing up for its second phase of human trials with the National Institutes of Health. The pharmaceutical company conducted its first phase in Seattle, Washington, in mid-March.
“The ultimate solution to a virus that might be coming back would be a vaccine,” Dr. Anthoy Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “The same way a vaccine for other diseases that were scourges in the past that now we don’t even worry about.”