First volunteer injected in Imperial College London’s Covid-19 vaccine trials

The first healthy volunteer has received a “small dose” of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by researchers from Imperial College London.

The participant, who has asked to remain anonymous, is reported to be in good health with no safety concerns after being injected on June 19.

A second booster dose will follow within four weeks.

Imperial now joins Oxford University in the UK’s race to find an effective vaccine to stop the pandemic.

Human trials for Oxford’s ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine began in April, involving more than 1,000 participants.

Professor Robin Shattock, from the department of infectious disease at Imperial, who is leading the research, said his team’s work is “an important step” for their vaccine candidate.

Professor Robin Shattock, from the department of infectious disease at Imperial who is leading the research
Professor Robin Shattock, from the department of infectious disease at Imperial, is leading the research on the Covid-19 vaccine trial (Thomas Angus/Imperial College London)

He added: “We now eagerly await rapid recruitment to the trial so that we can assess both the safety of the vaccine and its ability to produce neutralising antibodies which would indicate an effective response against Covid-19.

“I look forward to our progress in the coming months.”

Fifteen healthy volunteers are expected to receive their first dose in the coming days as part of the initial phase of the trial.

To assess safety as well as to find the optimal dosage, the researchers are starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it to higher doses for subsequent volunteers.

Around 300 healthy participants are expected take part in this trial.

Imperial’s RNA vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic.

Dr Katrina Pollock, clinical lead on the vaccine trial
Dr Katrina Pollock, who is the chief investigator of Imperial’s Covid-19 vaccine trial (Thomas Angus/Imperial College London)

It works by delivering genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the “spike” protein on the surface of Sars-CoV-2.

The presence of this protein provokes an immune response, offering protection against Covid-19.

If the vaccine is safe and shows promising immune response, a further trial involving 6,000 people is expected to go ahead in October.

Dr Katrina Pollock, from Imperial’s department of infectious disease and chief investigator of the study, said: “We have reached a significant milestone in this ground-breaking study with the first dose of a self-amplifying RNA vaccine delivered safely.

“We are now poised to test the vaccine in the dose evaluation phase before moving forward to evaluating it in larger numbers.”

Imperial has also formed a new social enterprise called VacEquity Global Health (VGH) to develop and distribute its vaccine across the UK and worldwide.

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