COVID-19 trial progresses, as ‘cautious optimism’ grows for RNA vaccine

More than 300 participants have been screened for Imperial’s COVID-19 vaccine trial as its lead speaks of “cautious optimism”.

Professor Robin Shattock and his team, including chief investigator Dr Katrina Pollock and senior clinician Dr David Owen, have successfully administered first doses to 15 trial volunteers.

The group’s self-amplifying RNA vaccine technology is cheap, highly scalable and has the potential to deliver many effective doses next year, should the trials succeed.

Imperial is continuing to recruit participants for the trial, which will deliver two doses to 300 people in the current phase, with plans for a further efficacy trial involving 6,000 people to start in October.

Imperial and Professor Robin Shattock have partnered with Morningside Ventures to launch a social enterprise, VacEquity Global Health, to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as cheaply and as widely as possible.

As the Guardian reports, “Shattock is aiming for a vaccine that will treat all the billions of people on the planet, however small their country’s GDP. That’s the real beauty of this approach, he believes: it’s very safe, uses very little material and can be scaled up very quickly… Royalties will be waived for low-income countries. Shattock says they may charge higher prices for wealthy countries in order to give the vaccine to the poorest at no cost.”

Imperial and VacEqity Global Health “could partner with producers in developing countries to provide millions of vials for as little as $5 a pop,” the Washington Post reports.

The vaccine’s development has received philanthropic support from hundreds of donors to Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund, as well as more than £40 million from the UK government.

See the Imperial COVID-19 Vaccine Trial and COVID-19 Response Fund

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