Trials of a coronavirus vaccine could begin within the next month, the Government’s health agency has said, as it prepares to start evaluating a drug developed by Oxford University.
Scientists at Public Health England (PHE) could give the go-ahead for human testing well ahead of the usual time frame for drug development.
The health agency is only due to start preliminary evaluation of the vaccine on animals next week.
PHE researchers have collaborated with teams at Liverpool and Bristol universities to create an exact replica of Covid-19 for use in the testing process.
Those behind the vaccine have been given permission to commence human trials before animal tests are complete, the Guardian reported, in a bid to accelerate the development process.
Permission was granted after similar vaccines developed for other diseases were proved safe in human trials.
Professor Adrian Hill, head of the Jenner Institute at Oxford, told the Guardian: “We are conscious that a vaccine is needed as soon as possible and certainly by June-July when we expect a big peak in mortality.
He added: “This is not a normal situation. We will follow all standard trial safety requirements but as soon as we have a vaccine that’s working we anticipate there will be an accelerated pathway to get it deployed to save lives.
“The more vaccine we can provide the sooner the better.”
The team at the Jenner Institute only began work on the drug on January 10 this year.
Earlier this month, Anthony Fauci, the director of the US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he expected it would be at least 12 to 18 months before a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.
The Jenner Institute said it had based the drug on an “adenovirus vaccine vector” based on an adenovirus isolated from a chimpanzee.