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UK set to infect volunteers with coronavirus to speed up vaccine trial

In these tightly-controlled trials, volunteers will be given a vaccine and then about a month later they will deliberately be infected with COVID-19 under controlled conditions

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | October 16, 2020 | Updated 15:21 IST
UK set to infect volunteers with coronavirus to speed up vaccine trial
At present, roughly 2,000 potential volunteers have signed up for human challenge studies in the UK.

Researchers and scientists around the world, who are working on coronavirus treatment, are trying hard to balance both speed and efficacy. Amid this, the UK government and a British biotech firm might sign a contract to speed up the process of determining the efficacy of the vaccine.

As per Reuters, London is set to host the world's first COVID-19 "human challenge" trial, in which healthy volunteers will deliberately infect themselves with coronavirus.

The preliminary work for the aforementioned trial is being carried out by hVIVO, a unit of pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan at London's Royal Free Hospital. Also, the trial is backed by Imperial College London. The pharma firm, hVIVO said that the work will be carried out "under the scrutiny of highly trained scientists and medics".

How "human challenge" trial will work?

In these tightly-controlled trials, volunteers will be given a vaccine and then about a month later they will deliberately be infected with COVID-19 under controlled conditions. They will then be isolated in a quarantine facility and monitored to see if they become sick or if the vaccine protects them.

Will the "human challenge" trial be safe?

Campaigners say the trial will cut short the usual process of testing potential vaccine. According to supporters of human challenge trials, traditional clinical trials need tens of thousands of participants, and researchers would struggle to attract enough for multiple vaccine studies.

However, critics of the human challenge trial say deliberately infecting someone with COVID-19 for which there is currently no effective treatment is unethical.

It must be noted that any human challenge trial in Britain will have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Also, any assessment would be carried out after hVIVO completes its preliminary work.

At present, roughly 2,000 potential volunteers have signed up for challenge studies in the UK via a US-based advocacy group 1Day Sooner.

Volunteers who took part in hVivo's influenza challenge studies received up to 3,750 pounds (Rs 3,55,909) compensation. For coronavirus trials, it is likely to be somewhat higher because the isolation will last longer-- perhaps a month or more.

Also read: Chinese city offers Sinovac coronavirus vaccine for emergency use at $60

Also read: Uday Kotak suggests 5 'right sectors' for foreign investors to invest in India

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