Researchers at Southampton General Hospital (UHS) and the University of Southampton are set to begin trials of a vaccine developed in the UK which could protect against COVID-19, with 187 of the 510 volunteers to be recruited directly from the city. With the support of UoS Sports & Wellbeing, the trials are set to take place within Jubilee Sports Centre on Highfield Campus in the coming months.
Work on the novel Coronavirus vaccine, developed by clinical teams at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began in January. Termed ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, it was genetically modified from a weakened version of the adenovirus (which causes the common cold) in chimpanzees, and cannot grow when inside a human host. The vaccine was further modified with genes encoding the ‘spike’ glycoproteins found on the surface of the coronavius, which ordinarily play a vital role in its infective activity, and were recently the focus of significant research efforts in the lab of Dr Max Crispin at the School of Biological Sciences.
Professor Saul Faust, Professor of Paediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Southampton and Director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at UHS, commented:
There are not currently any licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19 but vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one. 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.
We are really pleased to be supporting our colleagues in Oxford by collaborating on this extremely important study, which is one of only four vaccine trials underway worldwide and could pave the way for a vaccine to be delivered later this year. This study will enable us to assess if healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine and it will also give us valuable information on its safety and ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.
Information from the World Health Organisation states that more than 70 vaccines for COVID-19 are in development worldwide, but human trials have only begun in the United States and China so far. The new British study will commence initially in Oxford and Southampton, with another three sites to be added later. Half of volunteers in the study will receive either the COVID-19 vaccine and the other half will be given a licensed ‘control’ vaccine against meningitis and sepsis (the conjugate MenACWY vaccine) as a comparison.
Production of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 has already been scaled-up prior to the start of the trial in anticipation of larger studies starting, and possible nation-wide deployment in the near future. Professor Faust said of these efforts:
By starting vaccine manufacturing scale-up immediately, the team can ensure that enough vaccine doses are available as soon as possible for the next trials which will include older people and children. Those joining the trial will be playing a critical role in the global search for a vaccine that protects us all, not least frontline NHS workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
To find out more about the study and how to take part, please visit the volunteers’ site. The researchers involved are looking for healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55.