According to a press release today and keeping to the timeline set last week, Imperial College in London has proceeded with Phase I human trials for their COVID-19 vaccine.

See our Vaccine Tracker where we track every COVID-19 Vaccine currently in development.

The lead scientist, Robert Shattock, pioneered the technology of self-amplifying RNA which allows the development to outpace others at a lower cost. The College hopes to make this vaccine available to the UK as well as low-income countries.

According to a news article from the College, “For COVID-19, the technology is used to deliver genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the ‘spike’ protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. This evokes an immune response in the host to produce immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” Shattock was able to source genetic code from the virus from China and complete initial trials in early January.

In the long-term, a viable vaccine could be vital for protecting the most vulnerable, enabling restrictions to be eased and helping people to get back to normal life.

— Professor Robin Shattock, Principal Investigator, COVID-19 vaccine trial

Imperial's vaccine development is funded by £46M in philanthropic and government funding. This vaccine is different from any we've covered at in Shattock's own "self-amplifying" RNA technology.

The reason for the faster pace can be attributed to the self-amplifying technology of the vaccine where a smaller manufacturing footprint will be used to produce “tens of millions of vaccines” through next year. With self-amplifying RNA, the vaccine uses synthetic genetic strands of the virus, allowing our bodies to produce harmless copies of it ourselves to trigger immunity.

“From a scientific perspective, new technologies mean we have been able to get moving on a potential vaccine with unprecedented speed. We’ve been able to produce a vaccine from scratch and take it to human trials in just a few months – from code to candidate - which has never been done before with this type of vaccine. If our approach works and the vaccine provides effective protection against disease, it could revolutionise how we respond to disease outbreaks in future.”

The article describes the impact of their vaccine as: "For the UK and low-income countries abroad, Imperial and VGH will waive royalties and charge only modest cost-plus prices to sustain the enterprise’s work, accelerate global distribution and support new research."

The next phase of testing will cover 300 healthy individuals each receiving two doses. Successful testing in humans will eventually move the team into a final phase covering 6,000 participants.

“These clinical studies are crucial in showing the safety of any new vaccine, and demonstrating the immune response it produces

— Dr Katrina PollockChief Investigator, COVID-19 vaccine trial

Imperial college predicts the vaccine could become available as soon as Spring 2021.