The UK said on Tuesday it would support a “human challenge” experiment where young and healthy volunteers deliberately infected with COVID-19 to accelerate vaccine development against the disease.
The government said it will invest £33.6 million ($43.5 million) in research in partnership with Imperial College London, laboratory and testing services firm hVIVO and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
With approval from regulators and the ethics committee, the study will begin in January and results will come out in May 2021, the government said. UK-based hVIVO, a division of pharmaceutical services firm Open Orphan, said Friday that it is working on preliminary work for the trial.
Using a controlled dose of the virus, the research team’s goal is to find the minimum amount of virus needed to cause COVID-19 infection in a small group of healthy young people, initially 18 to 30 years old. Minimizing the risk, the government said. It said that up to 90 volunteers could participate in the initial stage.
Chris Chiu of Imperial College said the trial could increase understanding of COVID-19 in a unique way and accelerate the development of many potential new treatments and vaccines.
“Our top priority is the safety of our volunteers.” “Our team has been safely conducting human challenge studies on other respiratory viruses for over 10 years. While there are no studies that are completely risk-free, our Human Challenge Program partners will work hard to reduce risk as much as possible.”