Oxford researchers moving ahead with large-scale, "at-risk" production of experimental coronavirus vaccine

Scientists at Oxford University say they expect to produce a million doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine as early as September. The researchers said on Friday that they were recruiting volunteers for Phase I clinical testing of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, their recombinant viral vector vaccine candidate, and large-scale production capacity was being put in place on an "at risk" basis. 

"The aim is to have about a million doses by September once we have the results of our vaccine efficacy tests," remarked Adrian Hill, director of Oxford's Jenner Institute, adding "then we'll move even faster from there, because it's pretty clear that the world is going to need hundreds of millions of doses, ideally by the end of the year, to end this pandemic and let us out of lockdown safely." He noted that researchers are collaborating with several manufacturing partners around the world, including three in the UK, two in Europe, one in India and one in China. 

A team led by Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the university, has recruited about 500 volunteers ages 18 to 55 years who will be administered the experimental vaccine by mid-May. Testing will be extended to older adults and then advance to a late-stage trial involving 5000 people. The study divides participants into five groups that will be observed for about six months with the option for a follow-up visit about a year after entering the trial. 

Gilbert explained that researchers are "planning to do multiple trials in multiple countries" in order to determine the vaccine's efficacy, given that "virus transmission in different places is going up and then going down again…The trial has to be set up in the right place at the right time and that's very hard to predict." Still, she anticipates the vaccine has an 80% chance of working, saying "I've worked with this technology a lot, and I've worked on the MERS-vaccine trials, and I've seen what [it] can do…I think, it has a very strong chance of working." 

She added "we would hope to have at least some doses that are ready to be used by September…There won't be enough for everywhere by then, but the more manufacturing we can do starting from now, then the more doses there will be." 

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