A coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University will enter human trials as early as this Thursday, according to the U.K.’s health secretary.
The U.K. government will provide £20 million ($24 million) to the university’s team and a further £22.5 million to Imperial College, where scientists are also working on a vaccine. Scientists at Oxford have previously said the aim is to produce a million doses of the vaccine by September.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock praised both teams for making “rapid progress” and said the U.K. will throw “everything we’ve got” at developing a vaccine.
He also said the government would invest in manufacturing capabilities so that if either vaccine was successful it could be available for British people “as soon as humanly possible.”
“We are going to back them to the hilt and give them every resource that they need to get the best possible chance of success as soon as possible. The upside of being the first country in the world to develop a successful vaccine is so huge that I am throwing everything at it,” Hancock said.
However, he insisted vaccine development was a “process of trial and error and trial again.”
The Oxford University project, a collaboration between the university’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, opened recruitment for the clinical trial — for healthy adults between 18 and 55 — at the end of March, having begun research on a vaccine against the coronavirus-borne disease COVID-19 in February. Trials will now begin as soon as this Thursday, the health secretary revealed in the government’s daily briefing on Tuesday.
Praising the team, Hancock said reaching this stage in normal times would “take years.”
Speaking at the end of March, Adrian Hill, director of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, said: “The Oxford team had exceptional experience of a rapid vaccine response, such as to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. This is an even greater challenge.
“Vaccines are being designed from scratch and progressed at an unprecedented rate. The upcoming trial will be critical for assessing the feasibility of vaccination against COVID-19 and could lead to early deployment.”