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UPDATE 3-UK to host 'human challenge' trials for COVID-19 vaccines -FT

Wed, 23rd Sep 2020 15:59

(Adds UK government statement)

Sept 23 (Reuters) - Britain is planning to host clinical
trials where volunteers are deliberately infected with the new
coronavirus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, the
Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people involved in
the project.

So-called "challenge trials" are expected to begin in
January at a quarantine facility in London, the report https://on.ft.com/2G5o0jP
said, adding that about 2,000 participants had signed up
through a U.S.-based advocacy group, 1Day Sooner. (https://on.ft.com/2G5o0jP)

Britain said it was working with partners on the potential
for human challenge trials without commenting on a specific
plan.

"We are working with partners to understand how we might
collaborate on the potential development of a COVID-19 vaccine
through human challenge studies," a government spokeswoman said.

"These discussions are part of our work to research ways of
treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can
end the pandemic sooner."

The FT reported that the studies will be government funded,
although 1Day Sooner said it would also launch a petition for
public funding of a biocontainment facility big enough to
quarantine 100 to 200 participants.

Imperial College London, reportedly the academic lead on the
trials, did not confirm the studies.

"Imperial continues to engage in a wide range of exploratory
discussions relating to COVID-19 research, with a variety of
partners. We have nothing further to report at this stage," a
spokeswoman said, asked about the possibility of challenge
trials.

Any trials conducted in the United Kingdom have to be
approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory
Agency (MHRA), the healthcare regulator which looks into safety
and protocol.

The MHRA did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests
for comment, but 1Day Sooner, which lobbies for challenge trials
to accelerate vaccine development, welcomed the report.

"1Day Sooner congratulates the British government on their
plans to conduct challenge trials to test vaccines," it said in
a statement, confirming it would petition the government to
house the trial participants.

The industry has seen discussions in recent months about
potentially having to inject healthy volunteers with the novel
coronavirus if drugmakers struggled to find enough patients for
final trials.

The FT report said that volunteers would first be inoculated
with a vaccine and later receive a challenge dose of the
coronavirus. It did not name the vaccines that would be assessed
in the project.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca, and French firm
Sanofi both told Reuters that their vaccine candidates
were not involved in the programme.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra, Pushkala Aripaka and Manojna
Maddipatla in Bengaluru, Kate Kelland, Alistair Smout and Paul
Sandle in London, Matthias Blamont in Paris, Ludwig Burger in
Frankfurt and Peter Henderson in Oakland; Editing by Shinjini
Ganguli, Elaine Hardcastle and Jonathan Oatis)

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