UK researchers to trial Covid-19 vaccine and plasma therapy

20th April 2020 (Last Updated April 20th, 2020 13:18)

Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have announced plans to conduct a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate against Covid-19.

UK researchers to trial Covid-19 vaccine and plasma therapy
Companies and researchers race to develop vaccines and treatments for Covid-19. Credit: Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay.

Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have announced plans to conduct a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate against Covid-19.

The trial will enrol up to 510 healthy participants aged 18 to 55, including nearly 187 volunteers.

Called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, which started working on the candidate in January.

The vaccine is created using a weakened version of a common cold virus, an adenovirus, from chimpanzees.

This adenovirus has been genetically altered to prevent its growth in humans. It was then combined with genes that generate proteins from the Covid-19 virus, called spike glycoprotein, which is involved in the novel coronavirus infection pathway.

University of Southampton NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility director Saul Faust said: “There are not currently any licensed vaccines or specific treatments for Covid-19, but 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.”

The clinical trials aims to determine the vaccine candidate’s safety and ability to induce good immune responses against SARS-CoV-2.

Initially, the study will take place in Oxford and Southampton, with plans to add three more sites. Participants will receive the vaccine candidate or a licensed ‘control’ vaccine against meningitis and sepsis, the conjugate MenACWY vaccine.

The vaccine candidate’s production has been scaled up in order to prepare for larger trials and potential deployment in the future.

Meanwhile, NHS Blood and Transplant researchers are asking recovered citizens to donate blood to potentially assess convalescent plasma therapy in trials.

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokeswoman said: “We envisage that this will be initially used in trials as a possible treatment for Covid-19.

“If fully approved, the trials will investigate whether convalescent plasma transfusions could improve a Covid-19 patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. We are working closely with the government and all relevant bodies to move through the approvals process as quickly as possible.”

Earlier this month, the British Government announced the launch of a large-scale trial to assess potential treatments for Covid-19.