Britain to infect healthy volunteers to speed up COVID-19 vaccine efforts

The first trials to deliberately infect people with the coronavirus to accelerate the development of vaccines could occur in the UK next year as part of an agreement reached by the government.

Britain signed a contract with Open Orphan and its London-based unit, hVivo, that paves the way for human challenge trials, the company said on Tuesday. The plan is to manufacture the virus and conduct a study to determine how much of the pathogen to expose volunteers to in the trials.

The tests, backed by 33.6 million ($43 million) in government funding, would be carried out at the Royal Free Hospital‘s specialist research unit in London, with Imperial College London as a partner.

The agreement could be a turning point in the debate over whether to conduct such studies, which could help researchers to combat the virus but expose healthy volunteers to potential risks. A campaign to launch challenge trials has gained momentum as the virus continues to advance globally, and tens of thousands of people around the world have signed up to participate.


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