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Coronavirus: Scientists say vaccine could soon be tested on humans after ‘encouraging’ mice trials

‘We are racing against the virus,’ researcher says

Zoe Tidman
Saturday 14 March 2020 14:50 GMT
'60 per cent' of public need to contract coronavirus for herd immunity to take effect

A coronavirus vaccine could soon be tested on humans in the UK following “encouraging” research on mice.

Scientists from Imperial College London said that clinical trials could take place in a few months’ time if they receive funding, after trials on mice gave promising results.

“Currently we have a prototype vaccine in animal models where the early results are encouraging,” Dr Robin Shattock, head of mucosal infection and immunity at the university’s Department of Infectious Disease, told The Independent. “We are hoping to progress to clinical testing by the summer depending on obtaining sufficient funds for the next stage.”

A number of researchers across the globe are working to develop a vaccine for the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 145,000 people across the globe.

Scientists in the US have already launched an appeal for volunteers to take part in the “first coronavirus vaccine trial” on humans, which would pay participants $1,100 (£900).

An American vaccine company has said it hopes to start separate clinical trials in late spring, after receiving a funding boost.

“It is a global effort,” Dr Shattock from Imperial College London said about the possibility that funding may go to others.

“We are not racing against each other – we are racing against the virus.”

The team at the university have moved to testing their vaccine on monkeys with researchers in Paris, but the “litmus test” will be to see how it works on humans, Dr Shattock said.

Dr Paul McKay, a senior research fellow at Imperial, said the team had applied for further funding from the Medical Research Council to conduct human clinical trials.

“If British scientists here develop a vaccine it would be great if the government supported it,” he told the Daily Express.

There is currently no vaccine against Covid-19, which has put countries into lockdown as they work to combat the spread of the virus.

More than 5,400 people diagnosed with coronavirus – a flu-like disease that can develop into pneumonia – have died across the world as of Saturday, according to a Reuters tally.

The outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation this week.

More than 1,100 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, which could see “mass gatherings” banned from next week to curb Covid-19’s spread.

Twenty-one patients have died in the country to date.

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