World's First Covid-19 Human Trials Will Begin In The UK Next Month
Up to 90 volunteers will be needed for the first human challenge study into Covid-19 (PA)
Within a month, the Covid-19 Human Challenge Study will get underway in the UK, the government has announced.
The world first will involve 90 carefully selected, healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 30 being who will be exposed to Covid-19 in a safe and controlled environment to increase understanding of how it affects people.
The research, which has been given approval by the clinical trials ethics body, aims to establish what is the smallest amount of this novel coronavirus is needed to cause infection.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is backing the project with a £33.6 million investment, saying it will help support the pandemic response by aiding vaccine and treatment development.
It is being delivered by a partnership between the UK government's Vaccines Taskforce, Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and the company hVIVO, which has pioneered previous viral human challenge models.
Initially they will use the version of the virus that has been circulating in the UK since March 2020 on the subjects, as it has been shown to be of low risk in young healthy adults, rather than the mutant strains discovered in recent months.
BEIS say once this initial study has taken place, they will begin to administer versions of the vaccines to volunteers, then exposing them to Covid-19 to identify the most effective versions.
The business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Researchers and scientists around the world have made incredible progress in understanding Covid-19 and developing critical vaccines to protect people.
“While there has been very positive progress in vaccine development, we want to find the best and most effective vaccines for use over the longer term.
“These human challenge studies will take place here in the UK and will help accelerate scientists’ knowledge of how coronavirus affects people and could eventually further the rapid development of vaccines.”
Volunteers are currently being sought out to take part in the study, for which they will be compensated, the government says.
Chief investigator Dr Chris Chiu, from Imperial College London, said: "We are asking for volunteers aged between 18 and 30 to join this research endeavour and help us to understand how the virus infects people and how it passes so successfully between us."
- People can express an interest in taking part in the research by signing up here