Oxford University scientists who have already begun testing a potential coronavirus vaccine in humans say they believe that, if proven successful, it might be available as early as September. The vaccine, which is being developed by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began clinical trials last week.
“Personally I have a high degree of confidence about this vaccine because it’s technology that I’ve used before,” Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told CBS News.
Gilbert was referring to success the team, which began working on a potential vaccine in January, has previously seen in using a similar vaccine on a previous coronavirus strand. The success helped catapult them ahead of dozens of other labs who are still tinkering with safety before advancing to clinical trials involving humans.
The vaccine has also reportedly seen success in monkeys, signaling the promising potential for humans, according to The New York Times. In Montana, scientists from the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory injected six rhesus macaque monkeys with a single dose of that vaccine last month, and then exposed them to heavy doses of COVID-19. About a month later, researchers said the monkeys remained healthy.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” Dr. Vincent Munster, who is involved in the research, told The Times.
The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, or adenovirus, from chimpanzees and has been “genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans,” according to a statement from the University Hospital Southampton, which is also 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 said.
There currently are no approved vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19, which as of Wednesday had sickened more than 3.1 million people worldwide, and resulted in over 217,000 deaths.
The team otherwise has kept news regarding the trial and its progress under wraps, simply stating on its website that it is “aware there have been and will be rumors and false reports about the progress of the trial.”
“We urge people not to give these any credibility and not to circulate them,” the statement said. “We will not be offering a running commentary about the trial but all official updates will appear on this site."
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