In late June, Imperial College administered their COVID-19 vaccine to the first human participant.

A volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous, was verified as healthy and became the first to receive Imperial College London's unreleased vaccine for COVID-19. This is the first COVID-19 vaccine to use Dr. Robert Shattock's RNA-amplifying technique for inducing immunity against the virus.

Today, the college has screened "more than 300 participants" for their vaccine trial as Shattock, chief investigator Dr. Katrina Pollock, and senior clinician Dr. David Owen allude to "cautious optimism" with 15 healthy volunteers receiving the vaccine for trials.

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 next phase, for which the college is already recruiting participants, Imperial will vaccinate 300 participants across two doses followed by 6,000 in October.

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.”