Bristol researchers set to begin COVID-19 vaccine trials
Press release issued: 22 April 2020
Researchers at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and the University of Bristol are set to begin trials of a vaccine pioneered in the UK which could protect against COVID-19.
The study will involve healthy volunteers between 18 and 55 with up to 150 participants to be recruited in Bristol.
Work on the vaccine, developed by clinical research teams at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began in January.
It is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.
This has been combined with a gene that makes a protein from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) called spike glycoprotein which plays an essential role in the infection pathway of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Dr Rajeka Lazarus, Consultant in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at UHBW and the principal investigator for the study in Bristol, said: "Currently there are no licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19. However, vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one.
"This vaccine aims to turn the virus’ most potent weapon, its spikes, against it – raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock onto and destroy the virus."
Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol and Director of the Bristol Children's Vaccine Centre at Bristol Medical School, said: "We are delighted to be supporting our colleagues in Oxford by collaborating on this extremely important study, which is one of only four vaccine trials underway worldwide and could pave the way for a vaccine to be delivered later this year."
Professor Finn, who is also the lead of Bristol UNCOVER (Bristol COVID Emergency Research), a group of Bristol researchers united to collaborate on finding ways to overcome the disease, added: "This study will help us to assess whether healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine and it will also give us valuable information on its safety and ability to generate good immune responses against the virus."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 70 COVID-19 vaccines are in development worldwide but the UK now joins only the United States (two studies) and China in beginning human trials.
The study is currently taking place in Oxford, Bristol, London and Southampton. Half of volunteers in the study will receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the other half will be given a licensed 'control' vaccine against meningitis and sepsis (the conjugate MenACWY vaccine) as comparison.
Production has already been scaled up pre-trial to prepare as early as possible for larger trials and potential future deployment.
Dr Lazarus added: "By starting vaccine manufacturing scale-up immediately, the team can ensure that enough vaccine doses are available as soon as possible for the next trials which will include older people and children.
"Those taking part in the trial will play a crucial role in the global search for a vaccine that protects us all, not least front line NHS workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions."
To find out more about the study and how to take part, visit https://covid19vaccinetrial.co.uk/volunteer
Bristol’s researchers are part of a global network of scientists responding urgently to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.