UK to become first country to run a Covid-19 ‘human challenge’ study, following approval from the clinical trials ethics body.
THE world’s first Covid-19 human challenge study will begin within a month, after receiving ethics approval in the same week the UK hit its target of offering the first dose to 15 million people.
Researchers will call on healthy young people to volunteer for the study, which will play a key role in developing effective Covid vaccines and treatments.
Up to 90 volunteers aged 18 to 30 will be exposed to the virus in “a safe and controlled environment to increase understanding of how the virus affects people”.
Backed by a £33.6 million (€38.65 million) UK government investment, the first-of-its-kind study of Covid will involve establishing the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection, “which will give doctors greater understanding and help support the pandemic response by aiding vaccine and treatment development”, said the government in a statement.
“The safety of volunteers is paramount, which means this virus characterisation study will initially use the version of the virus that has been circulating in the UK since March 2020 and has been shown to be of low risk in young healthy adults.
“Medics and scientists will closely monitor the effect of the virus on volunteers and will be on hand to look after them 24 hours a day.”
The researchers are also working very closely with the Royal Free Hospital and the North Central London (NCL) Adult Critical Care Network to ensure the study will not impact on the ability of the NHS ability to care for patients during the pandemic.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Researchers and scientists around the world have made incredible progress in understanding Covid-19 and developing critical vaccines to protect people.
“While there has been very positive progress in vaccine development, we want to find the best and most effective vaccines for use over the longer term. These human challenge studies will take place here in the UK and will help accelerate scientists’ knowledge of how coronavirus affects people and could eventually further the rapid development of vaccines.”
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