Coronavirus (COVID-19)—human challenge studies may start in January 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19)—human challenge studies may start in January 2021

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have announced that the government is investing £33.6m into studies to accelerate development of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine through human challenge trials. The studies will be carried out by Imperial College London, hVIVO and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. BEIS and DHSC have also announced a further £19.7m investment in Public Health England (PHE) to fund a state-of-the-art laboratory facility at PHE Porton Down with the scope of increasing capabilities to process blood samples from clinical trials.

In human challenge studies, a small number of healthy adult volunteers are given a vaccine candidate and then exposed to the virus in a controlled environment. The first stage of this project aims to discover the smallest amount of virus it takes to cause a person to develop a coronavirus infection.

The studies are due to start in January 2021 with results expected by May 2021, subject to regulatory and ethical approval.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam explained that human challenge trials can be beneficial both for vaccines in the mid-stages of development, as they may ‘help pick out the most promising ones’, and for those in the late stages of development to ‘further understand if the vaccines prevent transmission as well as preventing illness'.

Source: Expert partnership to explore and establish Human Challenge studies of COVID-19 in the UK

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