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UK to host first human challenge studies for COVID-19 vaccines

September 23, 2020

The Financial Times reports that the UK will host the world’s first human COVID-19 challenge trials, in which healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with coronavirus, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of experimental vaccines.

The government-funded studies should launch in January 2021 at a 24-bed secure quarantine facility in east London.

About 2,000 potential UK volunteers have signed up through an advocacy group called 1Day Sooner which campaigns for COVID-19 infection trials aimed at accelerating development which are most useful when the viral infection rate is low. About 37K people globally have enlisted.

The group is launching a campaign this week to petition parliament for funds for a biocontainment facility with sufficient capacity to quarantine up to 200 people.

Volunteers will receive up to £3,750 for participating but may earn more considering the length of isolation, potentially as long as a month.

One key aspect of the studies is to select and purify a strain of the coronavirus that generally represents the SARS-CoV-2 strain currently circulating in the overall population.

Also, investigators will have a rescue remedy on hand to prevent serious illness in subjects. The London trial will initially use Gilead Sciences’ (GILD +0.3%) Veklury (remdesivir).

In the U.S., NIH has awarded a $3.6M contract to Colorado State University to support the manufacture of two coronavirus strains that could be used in challenge studies. NIH is currently investigating the technical and ethical aspects for such trials.

Selected tickers: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ +1.0%), Moderna (MRNA -3.3%), Pfizer (PFE -0.1%), BioNTech SE (BNTX -3.6%), Sanofi (SNY +1.4%), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK +1.0%), AstraZeneca (AZN +1.4%)

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