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Human clinical trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine are officially underway in the United Kingdom, according to officials in the country.
British Health Minister Matt Hancock said the trial would begin on Thursday, according to Bloomberg. The vaccine candidate was developed by University of Oxford researchers and received about $25 million in government funding. Some 510 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 55 are expected to take part, according to a statement.
The vaccine, which researchers at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group first began working on in January, is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, or adenovirus, from chimpanzees. It has been “genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans,” says a statement from the University Hospital Southampton, which is helping to conduct the trial.
“This has been combined with genes that make proteins from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) called spike glycoprotein which play an essential role in the infection pathway of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” it added.
Not everyone taking part in the study will be administered the vaccine candidate; half of the participants will receive a “control” vaccine, which in this case is one that protects against meningitis and sepsis, according to the statement.
“There are not currently any licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19 but vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one,” Saul Faust, the director of the National Institute for Health Research’s Southampton Clinical Research Facility at the University Hospital Southampton, said in the statement. “This vaccine aims to turn the virus’s most potent weapon, its spikes, against it – raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock onto and destroy the virus.”
Though more than 70 potential coronavirus vaccines are being developed across the world, the vaccine candidate in the U.K. is only the fourth to enter human clinical trials, following two in the United States and one in China.