LONDON, UK (CNN) – In the race for a vaccine against the coronavirus, human trials at Imperial College London are moving forward using new methods.
Justine Alford, in her 30s, is receiving an experimental new vaccine against coronavirus. She’ll get the second booster shot in two weeks and if all goes to plan should become immune.
She’s one of around 300 volunteers who have been tested for coronavirus and deemed eligible to take part in this stage of human trials by Imperial College London.
Alford stated that she feels really good and that it’s something to tell the grandkids over supper one day.
The vaccine Alford received works differently from other vaccines. It doesn’t contain a weakened copy of COVID-19, but a tiny piece of the genetic material. The hope is that now that genetic material has found its way into one of her muscle cells, her body will be encouraged to produce antibodies.
The vaccine is based on a synthetic strand of self-replicating code, or RNA. It’s a technique that has never yet been brought to market but one which could transform the way future vaccines are made.
“That allows the vaccine to be very scalable, and that’s exactly what you need when you’ve got a pandemic and you’re talking about not just vaccinating millions but potentially billions of people,” Imperial College London Senior Clinical Research Fellow Dr. Katrina Pollack said.
“So the process that we’re working on developing will take two weeks to make the product and then encapsulate it so that it can go into humans,” said Lucy Foley, Crisis Prevention Biologics Business unit director
Before that can be done, scientists in Darlington are figuring out how to go from the experimental phase to mass producing.
“Imagine stirring a cup of tea with a spoon and then stirring a bucket with a spoon. You’re not going to get the same mixing effect,” Crisis Prevention Biologics Business unit director Lucy Foley explained.
When asked how quickly they could get this up, she responded, “if you’re looking at a more traditional vaccine, you are looking at an 18-month program. For this one, we are looking at between four to six months to get it scaled and manufacture ready.”
The vaccine will still have to be tested on thousands more in locations where the virus is still circulating.
This is among 23 vaccines in clinical trials worldwide and one of several using RNA.
But with billions of people to protect in this pandemic, developing a vaccine in such small doses could make a big impact soon.