GOSH set to take part in world first human challenge study to find a COVID-19 vaccine

20 Oct 2020, 1:29 p.m.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) is set to play a crucial role in a new study exploring the possibility of running the first human challenge study to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

As part of the UK Government’s strategic pandemic response, plans for the world’s first human challenge study in COVID-19 has been announced today by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is funding it through the Vaccines Taskforce with a £33.6m investment.

Human challenge studies offer a faster way to test vaccines than more traditional clinical trials, which could be crucial to evaluating COVID-19 vaccines when they are developed. This human challenge study will recruit healthy adult volunteers aged 18-30 and infect them with the COVID-19 virus via their nose.

The manufacturing of the virus will take place at GOSH in the brand-new facilities in Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children. The centre is the largest single academic manufacturing unit for gene and cell therapies in the UK and one of the largest in the world.

Researchers will then use small doses of the manufactured virus to find the smallest possible amount that can cause an infection of COVID-19. Volunteers will stay in a special unit at the Royal Free Hospital where they will be closely monitored. If this first part of the study – known as virus characterisation study – is a success, researchers may then be able to test if COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being developed could prevent the infection.

The research is a partnership between the UK Government, Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and hVIVO, a leading clinical company with significant experience in human challenge models for viruses.

Mat Shaw, Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital said; “Never has research been more important than now. GOSH’s commitment to research coupled with the world-class facilities in our Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children mean that we can play our part in this important study.”

The Zayed Centre for Research opened to patients in October 2019 and the centre brings together pioneering research and clinical care under one roof that will help to drive forward new treatments and cures for seriously ill children from across the UK and international patients.

It was made possible thanks to a transformative £60 million gift from Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the United Arab Emirates, in 2014. Major contributions were also made by Research England, The Wolfson Foundation, John Connolly & Odile Griffith and the Mead Family Foundation. The centre is a partnership between Great Ormond Street Hospital, UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Notes to editors

About Great Ormond Street Hospital 

Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals with the broadest range of dedicated, children’s healthcare specialists under one roof in the UK. The hospital’s pioneering research and treatment gives hope to children from across the UK with the rarest, most complex and often life-threatening conditions. Our patients and families are central to everything we do – from the moment they come through the door and for as long as they need us.

About UCL (University College London) 

UCL was founded in 1826. It was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine.

It is  among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables, and are committed to changing the world for the better.

About Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity 

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity needs to raise money to support the hospital to give seriously ill children, the best chance for life. The charity funds research into pioneering new treatments for children, provides the most up to date medical equipment, funds support services for children and their families and supports the essential rebuilding and refurbishment of the hospital. You can help us to provide world class care for our patients and families. For more information visit www.gosh.org 

About Research England

Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. It distributes over £2.2bn to universities in England every year; works to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity; and supports and challenges universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. Research England is part of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK. Twitter: @ResEngland

About The Wolfson Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity with a focus on research and education. Its aim is to support civil society by investing in excellent projects in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts. Since it was established in 1955, some £1 billion (£2 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 11,500 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review. Twitter: @wolfsonfdn

About The Mead Family Foundation

The Mead Family Foundation was founded by Scott Mead in 1996 to support and encourage medical research, education, the arts and access to sports for the broader community.

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