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Researchers to begin new phase of COVID-19 vaccine trials

Last updated: 22/05/2020

Researchers at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) and the University of Bristol are set to begin a new phase of trials of a vaccine pioneered in the UK which could protect against COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Phase 2/3 catchment area
The Bristol catchment area for the
Phase 2/3
COVID-19 vaccine trial

The study will involve healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 with up to 500 participants to be recruited in Bristol and this phase of the trial will assess how well the vaccine works to prevent people from becoming infected with COVID-19.

Work on the vaccine, developed by clinical research teams at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began in January.

It is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

This has been combined with a gene that makes a protein from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) called spike glycoprotein which plays an essential role in the infection pathway of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The first phase of the trial took place in April, and the latest phase will begin in Bristol on Saturday 23 May 2020.

Dr Rajeka Lazarus, a consultant in infectious diseases and microbiology at UHBW and one of the principle investigators for the study in Bristol, said: “Currently there are no licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19. However, vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one.

“This vaccine aims to turn the virus’ most potent weapon, its spikes, against it – raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock onto and destroy the virus.”

Dr Rajeka Lazarus
Dr Rajeka Lazarus
Professor Adam Finn
Prof Adam Finn

Adam Finn, who is also a principle investigator for the study in Bristol, as well as honorary consultant at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and director of the Bristol Children's Vaccine Centre at Bristol Medical School, said: “We are delighted to be supporting our colleagues in Oxford by collaborating on this extremely important study.”

Professor Finn, who is also the lead of Bristol UNCOVER (Bristol COVID Emergency Research), a group of Bristol researchers united to collaborate on finding ways to overcome the disease, added: “This study will help us to assess whether healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine and it will also give us valuable information on its safety and ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.”

Dr Lazarus added: “Those taking part in the trial will play a crucial role in the global search for a vaccine that protects us all, not least frontline NHS workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.”