Up to two dozen people in Britain could be deliberately infected with a weakened form of coronavirus as part of a trial to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.
Codagenix, a New York based company, plans to begin experiments of its vaccine in London by the end of the year. The vaccine is likely to be trialled at a 24-bed clinic in Whitechapel, East London, where participants will be quarantined, The Times reports.
The jab is a live attenuated vaccine, meaning people will be given a genetically-modified version of the coronavirus that is weaker than the real thing but still infectious.
These types of vaccines work by stimulating the immune system in the same way that the real Covid-19 would, but by relying on viruses unable to cause severe illness, they ensure the safety of the partcipant.
Codagenix says its vaccine was successful after a single dose in animal trials and is designed to produce immunity against various parts of the coronavirus, rather than just the ‘spike protein’ on the outside that many others have focused on.
This could be an essential progression in the treatment of covid-19 because that means the vaccine could work on mutated version of the virus.
Although it is unclear whether Codagenix will take part in this, medical news website BioWorld reported in July that the company was planning to do so.
The company is understood to still be seeking approval from the UK’s drugs regulator to go ahead with its tests.
Normally, the coronavirus infects it’s host by decoding sections of genes which allow it to hijack living cells and use them to multiply itself.
The company developed a weaker virus by changing its genetic code using a computer programme so that it mimics the wild virus. The modified virus, however, takes significantly longer to achieve the same result.
This means it cannot get a head-start on the immune system and the body should be able to destroy it – and form a memory of how to destroy it – before it can cause illness.
Robert Coleman, the company’s CEO, told The Times, ‘We recode a portion of the virus’s genome so that it’s slowly translated by the human host.
It’s like giving American high-school students Shakespearean English – they’ll read it, but they’ll have a hard time.”
Although, a bad example, Coleman is trying to illustrate the importantance that using a slower virus has on the body’s ability to fight it.