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Oxford trial funded by UKRI offers new hope for a COVID vaccine

20 Jul 2020

Early stage human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine have found it produces strong immune response and shows no early safety concerns, according to results published today in The Lancet

The team of scientists at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, who are funded by UKRI’s Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as part of the COVID-19 rapid research response, say they have taken the next step towards the discovery of a safe, effective and accessible vaccine against coronavirus.

The vaccine is similar to a vaccine the team previously developed for the closely related MERS coronavirus, which showed promise in animal and early-stage human testing. Their earlier research and vaccine development were funded by the Medical Research Council, and the UK Vaccines Network – a joint UKRI and Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) initiative.

The results of the Phase I/II trial published today in the scientific journal, The Lancet, indicate no early safety concerns, and both T-cell and antibody responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including robust neutralising antibody responses were demonstrated.

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council, which helped to fund the trial, said: “It is truly remarkable how fast this vaccine has progressed, with our support, through early clinical trials, and it is very encouraging that it shows no safety concerns and evokes strong immune responses. There is a lot that we don’t yet know about immunity to the virus that causes Covid-19. However, it seems that both antibody and T cell immunity are important, and this vaccine triggers both responses. The much-anticipated next milestone will be the results of the larger trials that are happening now to find out if the vaccine will protect people from the virus.

“The UK’s long-term investment in leading vaccine research enabled Professor Gilbert’s team to develop a vaccine to tackle a previous coronavirus outbreak, MERS, helping them to be one of the first in the world to start human trials for the COVID-19 vaccine. Many congratulations to all involved.”

View the full article on the UKRI website.

Read about MRC’s Response to Covid-19.

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