Coronavirus Vaccine in UK Ready in Six Months
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All hands on deck for the development of a new coronavirus vaccine and the UK may be ahead of the race, as they hope to have a vaccine ready for the public by the end of the year. Researchers at Oxford University plan to perform safety trials of its new coronavirus vaccine next month. Should the safety trials prove success, the next still will be larger trials to assess how effective the vaccine is at protecting against the infection. The same vaccine will start animal trials next week at the Public Health England (PHE) laboratory at Porton Down near Salisbury. Normally, animal work must be completed before human trials can start, but because similar vaccines have worked safely in trials for other diseases, the work has been accelerated. Despite the growing pandemic, standard trial safety requirements are being followed, but accelerated pathways exist once the vaccine is proved to be safe for the general population. Even though Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Donald Trump’s taskforce, and UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance both agreed that a vaccine was 12-18 months away, the Oxford team and others were aiming for much earlier to beat estimates. A British patient has entered a randomized trial for coronavirus for the first time. The patient, who had Covid-19, is being tested to check whether they have immunity. The coronavirus vaccine being developed at Porton Down is an intramuscular injection that uses a harmless, non-replicating virus to smuggle DNA from the coronavirus into the body’s cells. Once inside, the body’s cells use the coronavirus DNA to churn out copies of the “spike proteins” that trigger the immune response against coronavirus infection. Previous studies suggest the vaccine should work with only a single shot. The Oxford trial is expected to recruit people from a range of ages, but scientists will be particularly keen to see how it performs in older people. They are most vulnerable to the virus, but tend to respond less well to vaccinations because of their weaker immune systems. The Oxford team have a small manufacturing capability to make the vaccine for trials but will need to work with a full-scale vaccine manufacturer to produce enough shots if the trials demonstrate that they can protect people. The hope is to have the vaccine available for use in an emergency response setting where the usual licensing rules are relaxed. The Oxford vaccine, known as ChAdOx1, is one of five frontrunner vaccines in development around the world. The US biotech Moderna gave its first vaccine shot to a person in Seattle earlier this week. Another US firm, Inovio, will soon start trials on its own coronavirus vaccine, which requires a special device to administer through the skin. In Germany, CureVac is working on a vaccine, while others are in development in China.