A quarantine site in London is likely to begin 'COVID-19 human challenge trials' in January next year, for which nearly 2,000 people have expressed interest. Volunteers who qualify for the trials will be injected with an experimental vaccine before being administered a dose of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, under controlled conditions. The United Kingdom, however, has not named the vaccines that would be assessed in the project.
According to a report with the Financial Times, with this trial, the United Kingdom could become the first in the world to deliberately infect healthy volunteers with coronavirus. The move aims to study the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, the report states.
Meanwhile, British drugmaker AstraZeneca, and French firm Sanofi both has said that their vaccine candidates were not involved in the programme.
1Day Sooner, a US-based advocacy group campaigning for Covid-19 infection trials, has petitioned the British Parliament seeking funds to build a containment facility with the capacity to quarantine 100 to 200 participants.
Imperial College London, reportedly the academic lead on the trials, did not confirm the studies.
“Imperial continues to engage in a wide range of exploratory discussions relating to COVID-19 research, with a variety of partners. We have nothing further to report at this stage,” a spokeswoman said, asked about the possibility of challenge trials.
However, any Covid-19 challenge trial will need to be approved by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and an independent research ethics committee.
“Human challenge trials can be helpful for the development of vaccines and can provide early evidence of clinical efficacy, particularly when there are low rates of infection of the virus in the population,” said the MHRA.
“The safety of trial participants is our top priority and any proposal from a developer to include a human infection challenge as part of a clinical trial for development of a vaccine would be considered on a benefit-risk basis, with risks monitored for and minimised in the proposed trial design.”
The UK government and the MHRA did not immediately respond to news agency Reuters’ requests for comment, but 1Day Sooner welcomed the report. “1Day Sooner congratulates the British government on their plans to conduct challenge trials to test vaccines,” it said in a statement, confirming it would petition the government to house the trial participants.