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Imperial COVID-19 vaccine trial expands to additional sites

Imperial COVID-19 vaccine trial expands to additional sites

28 July 2020

Imperial College London's COVID-19 vaccine trial is expanding to additional sites throughout England.

The vaccine was funded by the COVID-19 rapid research response from UKRI, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). It has received £41million from the UK government and a further £5million in philanthropic donations.

Preclinical studies have shown that the vaccine produced highly specific antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in mice, which were able to neutralise the virus.

It will now be trialled in more than 200 people across six locations: Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, University College London NHS Foundation Trust. Two other locations are to be confirmed.

The participants at these trial sites will be aged 18-75, and receive two immunisations, four weeks apart.

Dr Katrina Pollock, clinical lead on the Imperial COVAC1 study, said: “The trial is progressing well, and the additional sites will allow us to further evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of this vaccine, providing key clinical data. We look forward to the expansion of the trial with our partners at additional sites.”

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading the development of Imperial’s COVID-19 vaccine, said: “The early results from pre-clinical data have been promising, and the expansion of our trial to additional centres will provide further data on the safety of the vaccine, and the immune response.”

Progress so far

The Imperial vaccine, which uses self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) technology, has so far been trialled in 92 volunteers.

All participants are being closely monitored by clinical teams. In addition to recording any potential adverse reactions to the vaccine, the team will analyse participants’ blood for the presence of neutralising antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The Imperial vaccine is based on a new approach that uses synthetic strands of genetic code (called RNA), based on the virus’s genetic material.

If the trials succeed, the Imperial vaccine may be able to deliver effective doses from relatively low volumes of the vaccine, and lends itself to rapid scale-up in manufacturing at a relatively low cost.