News & Views
Coronavirus Trials to Assess new Method of Vaccine Delivery
Sep 15 2020
Researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) are set to begin trials on two of the UK’s coronavirus vaccines being developed by ICL and Oxford University, which are based on direct inhalation. The landmark study, funded by UKRI and the NIHR and led by Dr Chris Chiu, head of the Imperial Network for Vaccine Research, will compare the COVID-19 candidates aiming to assess the safety and efficacy of administering the vaccines as inhaled airborne droplets rather than an injection into muscle.
The hope is that directly targeting the cells lining the airways – the typical point of infection for respiratory viruses – may induce a more effective immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Dr Chris Chiu, from the Department of Infectious Disease said: “We have evidence that delivering influenza vaccines via a nasal spray can protect people against flu as well as help to reduce the transmission of the disease. We are keen to explore if this may also be the case for SARS-CoV-2 and whether delivering COVID-19 vaccines to the respiratory tract is safe and produces an effective immune response.
The current pandemic is caused by a respiratory virus which primarily infects people through the cells lining the nose, throat and lungs. These surfaces are specialised and produce a different immune response to the rest of the body, so it is critical we explore whether targeting the airways directly can provide an effective response compared to a vaccine injected into muscle.”
Dr Chiu will work with Imperial’s Professor Robin Shattock and Oxford’s Professor Sarah Gilbert to assess the vaccines by delivering them to a small group of healthy volunteers as an aerosol – similar to how inhaled asthma medications are delivered.
Professor Robin Shattock, from Imperial’s Department of Infectious Disease and research lead on the Imperial vaccine, said: “A number of groups around the world are currently working on clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, and these will tell us whether these candidates can produce a systemic immune response against the virus. However, these trials are unlikely to tell us anything about the localised response in the nose, throat and airways – where the virus primarily attacks and invades cells.
It may well be that one group has the right vaccine but the wrong delivery method, and only trials such as this will be able to tell us that. We look forward to assessing different delivery methods and pushing forward the global scientific effort against this virus.”
Professor Sarah Gilbert, from the University of Oxford, said: “We have already shown that ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) is safe and induces strong immune responses after intramuscular injection. Delivering the vaccine to the respiratory tract instead may be a good approach to inducing immune responses in the best place to enable a rapid response after exposure to airborne virus. This is a small study which will provide some important information.”
More information: here
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