Oxford COVID-19 vaccine programme opens for clinical trial recruitment

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The researchers at the University of Oxford have started screening healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 for their upcoming ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine trial in the Thames Valley Region. The vaccine is based on an adenovirus vaccine vector and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is already in production but still won’t be ready for a few weeks. 

The team of researchers plans on enrolling healthy volunteers. If the volunteers pass the screening, they will become the first humans to have been tested for the new vaccine which goes by the name  ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. This vaccine trial is expected to produce valuable information on its safety aspects as well as its ability to generate immune response to fight the coronavirus. People who wish to volunteer can do on the COVID-19 vaccine website

510 volunteers will be recruited for the trial which is a collaboration between the University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group clinical teams. Volunteers will either receive the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine or a control injection for comparison. However, there are still a few weeks left before the vaccine will be ready. The researchers are working quickly to make it up to clinical-grade meanwhile the teams will start screening people now. 

Professor Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, said, ‘The Oxford team had the exceptional experience of rapid vaccine response, such as to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. This is an even greater challenge. Vaccines are being designed from scratch and progressed at an unprecedented rate. The upcoming trial will be critical for assessing the feasibility of vaccination against COVID-19 and could lead to early deployment.’ Scientists throughout the world are working hard to develop a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but there is a lot to be done. The Oxford team led by Prof. Sarah Gilbert, Prof. Andrew Pollard, Prof. Teresa Lambe, Dr. Sandy Douglas, and Prof. Adrian Hill started work designing a vaccine on Friday 10th January 2020.

The vaccine developed at Oxford’s Jenner Institute is an adenovirus vaccine vector (ChAdOx1). It’s ability to generate a strong immune response from one dose led to its selection as the most suitable vaccine technology for a SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine. Adenoviral vectors are a very well-studied vaccine type, having been used safely in thousands of subjects, from 1 week to 90 years of age, in vaccines targeting over 10 different diseases. 

Coronaviruses have club-shaped spikes on their outer coats. Immune responses from other coronavirus studies suggest that these are a good target for a vaccine. The Oxford vaccine contains the genetic sequence of this surface spike protein inside the ChAdOx1 construct. After vaccination, the surface spike protein of the coronavirus is produced, which primes the immune system to attack the coronavirus if it later infects the body. Professor Gilbert and the team have previously developed a vaccine for another human coronavirus disease, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and this has shown promise in early clinical trials.

At the same time as conducting the first clinical trial, production of the vaccine is being scaled up ready for larger trials, and potentially, future deployment. By starting vaccine manufacturing scale-up immediately, the team can ensure that enough vaccine doses are available as soon as possible – especially for NHS workers, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions – if the trials prove that the vaccine is safe and effective.

 

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