Coronavirus: British scientists begin animal testing phase for new vaccine

Imperial College London hopes to begin clinical trials by early summer if tests are successful

View of a lab in the vaccine innovation department at Pasteur Institute in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Scientists at the Pasteur Institute developed and shared a quick test for the new virus that is spreading worldwide, and are using genetic information about the coronavirus to develop a potential vaccine and treatments. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
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Scientists at a British university began the animal testing phase of a vaccine for coronavirus on Monday, as researchers across the globe race to develop medicine to fight the infection.

Robin Shattock, Professor of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College London, is leading the team developing a vaccine for the virus, 2019-nCoV.

Professor Shattock said the team was employing new techniques that would allow the vaccine to be produced much faster than for previous outbreaks such as Sars in 2002.

“We have the technology to generate a vaccine with a speed that’s never been realised before,” he said. “Most vaccines would take five years in the discovery phase and one to two years to manufacture and get into clinical trials.”

He said if the animal testing stage is successful and if extra funding is secured, the vaccine will be available for testing on humans by early summer. The vaccine would not be ready for wide use until next year at the earliest.

“All things can change depending on how this epidemic works out,” Professor Shattock said. “It might all have been and gone in a few months – that would be wonderful.”

Oxford University is also working to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of people in China and infected more than 40,000 people globally.

The Jenner Institute at the university has been working on a single-dose vaccine for another coronavirus known as Mers, which is currently being used in clinical trials in Saudi Arabia.

The university is using the same approach to make a vaccine for 2019-nCoV and has agreed a contract with an Italian manufacturer to produce the first batch of the vaccine for clinical testing.

Professor Sarah Gilbert of the Jenner Institute said: “By using technology that is known to work well for another coronavirus vaccine we are able to reduce the time taken to prepare for clinical trials.”