An Oxford University team is leading the race to get a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine available in the billions of doses for global human use as soon as possible. Human trials begin on it today.
Ahead of many other teams around the world, the Oxford Vaccine Group was already well into research on other coronaviruses, including MERS. It is based on the adenovirus vaccine vector and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The Oxford team had already isolated the mechanisms of reproduction in the virus, and had successfully worked through many of the safety concerns for use in humans.
In March, 2020, the Oxford team began pre-screening human subjects, while they tested their vaccine on rhesus macaques. The monkeys were then given heavy doses of given hAdOx1 nCoV-19 that had sickened other monkeys. None of the test subject monkeys became ill, and they remain COVID-19 free after 28 days and counting.
Human trials on 1,110 people begin today on healthy individuals located in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol. Half will receive a placebo and half will receive the experimental vaccine. Results were expected to take 6 months, but some on the team are wishfully hoping to fast-track the vaccine's development for dispatch to the population as soon as September.
Here in the U.S., the FDA announced today it will approve emergency use authorization of remdesivir as a treatment medication for individuals already infected with COVID-19. Currently, no medications are fully FDA approved. In preliminary testing, remdesivir, made by Gildead Sciences, is showing promise as a medication that may shorten recovery time by 4 to 5 days, or a 31% improvement. Approximately 1,090 people participated in the trial internationally, in what Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Health described as the first truly high-powered randomized placebo controlled trial of a COVID-19 treatment drug.
"If it gets approved, we can vaccinate people immediately."