Imperial College London has announced that the very first human has received a dose of its new trial coronavirus vaccine. Many traditional vaccines are based on a weakened or modified form of virus or parts of it, but the Imperial vaccine is based on a new approach. It uses synthetic strands of genetic code (called RNA), based on the virus’s genetic material.

The theory is once injected into muscle, the RNA self amplifies – generating copies of itself – and instructs the body’s own cells to make copies of a spiky protein found on the outside of the virus. This should train the immune system to respond to the coronavirus so the body can easily recognise it and defend itself against COVID-19 in future.

According to reports, the volunteer will be joined by 300 other healthy participants in receiving two doses of the vaccine to assess its safety and effectiveness in humans against Covid-19, the infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Described as a “significant milestone” in the fight against Covid-19, the researchers said they look forward to progress in the coming months.

“We now eagerly await rapid recruitment to the trial so that we can assess both the safety of the vaccine and its ability to produce neutralising antibodies which would indicate an effective response against COVID-19,” said Professor Robin Shattock.

Co-researcher Dr Katrina Pollock added: “We are now poised to test the vaccine in the dose evaluation phase before moving forward to evaluating it in larger numbers.”

In animal and pre-clinical safety tests and studies, the trial vaccine has been shown to be safe and produce “encouraging signs” of an effective immune response.

The study comes after Oxford University announced it began its own vaccine trial in April, which has so far enrolled more than 4,000 volunteers.

To find out more about the Imperial College London trial, please click here.

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