UK scientist makes coronavirus vaccine breakthrough A coronavirus illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. (File photo: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via Reuters)
Eastern Eye Staff
A British scientist has made a “significant breakthrough” in developing a vaccine for the coronavirus.
Robin Shattock, head of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College London, told the media that his team has been able to cut the time for clinical trials from “two to three years to just 14 days”.
Shattock said he set to start testing the vaccine on animals as early as next week, and could start human studies by summer if enough funding was provided.
“Conventional approaches usually take at least two to three years before you even get to the clinic,” he told Sky News. “And we’ve gone from that sequence to generating a candidate in the laboratory in 14 days.”
He added it would not be too late “if this becomes a pandemic”. (The World Health Organization has not declared novel coronavirus as a pandemic.)
“We still don’t know much about the epidemic itself so it may wane over the summer months if it is like influenza,” said Shattock. “We may see a second wave come through on a global basis and, if it comes, a vaccine will be really important and would be in place to tackle that.”
Earlier in the day, the UK government chartered a “final flight” this weekend to bring British nationals back from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. The announcement came after Britons in mainland China were urged to leave the country.
More than 100 UK nationals and family members have already been evacuated to Britain from Wuhan. About 165 Britons are still in Hubei province, and 108 have requested the Foreign Office for help.
There have been two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK—a student at the University of York and one of his relatives. Both were being treated at at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Terming the situation “very serious”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday (February 5) said “we do expect more [cases], so we are taking no chances”.
Globally, at least 427 people have died after contracting the virus and more than 20,000 confirmed cases of infection have been reported (most of them in China).