London scientists aim for 2021 COVID-19 vaccine

London scientists aim for 2021 COVID-19 vaccine
The scientists at Imperial College, one of two competing groups to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, remain some way behind the rival team at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 11 June 2020

London scientists aim for 2021 COVID-19 vaccine

London scientists aim for 2021 COVID-19 vaccine
  • The Imperial College team only expects to begin human trials on June 15

LONDON: A team of scientists at Imperial College, London, could develop a vaccine for COVID-19 by the first half of 2021.

The scientists at Imperial College, one of two competing groups to develop a vaccine in the UK, remain some way behind the rival team at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, which has already begun the latter stages of trialing and development, and has plans in place to mass produce its vaccine this year should it be successful. 

The Imperial team, which is developing an RNA vaccine to attack COVID-19’s “spike” proteins, which it uses to latch onto human cells, only expects to begin human trials on June 15, with a larger trial, involving 6,000 people, penciled in for October should initial results prove positive.

“We have spent an intense six months to fast-track our vaccine to the clinic,” said Prof. Robin Shattock, head of the Imperial team. “Now, we are ready to combat the virus through our clinical trials.”

He added, in a webinar hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine, that he hoped his team’s vaccine would be available by “the first two quarters of next year if things go extraordinarily well.”

Shattock, though, said the Imperial and Oxford teams’ rivalry is proving constructive, and the two sides have shared data with each other in a bid to perfect their respective vaccines.

“We are often pitted against each other or seen to be in a race against each other, but actually we are collaborating very closely, exchanging material, and the two approaches may well be able to be used together, in a prime / boost (primary and booster jab) approach,” he added.

“We are not trying to beat each other. We are trying to work together and make a vaccine available in the fastest possible time.”