The UK’s world-leading research and innovation infrastructures play a key role in enabling scientists to deliver internationally competitive research. Through providing access to high-quality infrastructures, scientists have been able to develop and test new vaccines to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
One example of this is the vaccine candidate AZD1222 (formerly known as ChadOx1 nCoV-19), based on a weakened version of the common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees.
Originally developed through a collaboration between the Oxford Vaccine Group and Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, AZD1222 is currently being manufactured using expertise and equipment from several organisations. This includes the University of Oxford Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility, University College London Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax-Hub) and the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, a not-for profit organisation established to provide the UK’s first strategic vaccine development and advanced manufacturing capability.
The project has received support from a number of funders, including the COVID-19 rapid response initiative, involving UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Previous support from UKRI and DHSC helped the Oxford group create a vaccine against a similar coronavirus, MERS, which speeded up vaccine development efforts.
The vaccine contains genetic material responsible for making the spike glycoprotein, a protein on the surface of the virus that plays an important part in enabling it to enter human cells. It is hoped that by including this protein, the immune system of vaccinated individuals will have been ‘primed’, helping them to recognise and fight the virus in the future.
The vaccine is currently undergoing stage II and III clinical trials to test its effectiveness, involving over 10,000 volunteers from across the UK and other countries. If successful, vaccine doses will be manufactured at a rapid scale under a partnership between the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
For more information, visit http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-05-22-oxford-covid-19-vaccine-begin-phase-iiiii-human-trials