Vaccine trials to begin at Imperial College Healthcare

Imperial College Healthcare will be part of two clinical trials to begin recruiting volunteers and testing a vaccine against COVID-19.

The first study, which is led by the University of Oxford, will see trials conducted at multiple centres across the UK, including Oxford, Southampton, Bristol and at Imperial College Healthcare. The trials are expected to run for the next six months.

Dr Bob Klaber, director of strategy, research and innovation at the Trust, said: "Clinical research is vital in the fight against coronavirus and so it’s key that academics and clinicians come together in partnership to share their expertise and experience of the virus in order to achieve this. To see clinical trials on vaccines already underway is a huge achievement and one that I hope helps change the way we respond as a country and international community to the huge challenges this virus is presenting us with."

The Trust is currently recruiting healthy volunteers to participate in these clinical trials and the work will enable researchers to assess if healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with the new vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. It will also provide valuable information on safety aspects of the vaccine and its ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.   

Participants will be randomly allocated to receive the vaccine or a control injection in addition to undertaking blood tests and collecting information about any symptoms that occur after vaccination. 

Dr Katrina Pollock, Clinical Research Fellow in Vaccinology, at Imperial College London will be leading the work and said: “This is the first in-human trial for this candidate vaccine and an important step towards developing a safe and effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Our clinical team is excited to begin trials this week as a key centre in this landmark study to combat COVID-19.”   

For further information on the Oxford-led vaccine study or to register as a participant, please see the trial website.

In addition to this work, Professor Robin Shattock at Imperial College London is leading on developing a different vaccine, which will be tested in human trials beginning in June, also at the Trust.

Professor Shattock’s team has been testing this possible vaccine in animals since early February. Early findings have shown that animals given the vaccine are able to produce neutralizing antibodies against the novel coronavirus. The team is currently developing the vaccine further and will test whether it can produce the same response in humans, which could ultimately protect against COVID-19.

The UK government has provided £22.5 million to help fast-track Imperial College’s development of a vaccine and Professor Shattock’s team will soon begin screening participants for the trial; members of the public can register their interest here

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP announced the funding during the government’s daily coronavirus briefing. He said “In the long run, the best way to defeat coronavirus is through a vaccine”.