Britain is reportedly planning to host clinical trials where volunteers are deliberately infected with Covid-19 to test the effectiveness of potential vaccines.
So-called challenge trials are expected to begin at a quarantine facility in London in January, the Financial Times reported, citing people involved with the project.
The government said it was working with partners on the potential for human challenge trials to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, but would not comment on any specific plans.
“We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a Covid-19 vaccine through human challenge studies,” a government spokesperson said.
“These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner,” they added.
Around 2,000 participants had signed up to take part in the trials via US based advocacy group 1Day Sooner, the FT reported.
The paper reported that the studies would be government funded, but 1Day Sooner said it would also launch a petition for public funding of a biocontainment facility big enough to quarantine 100 to 200 trial participants.
Open Orphan, a pharmaceutical services company named by the FT as running the planned human challenge trials, confirmed that it is in “advanced negotiation with the UK Government and other partners for a coronavirus challenge study in the UK”.
“There can be no certainty that these discussions will lead to a new contract,” it added.
Imperial College London, reported to be the academic lead on the trials, did not confirm whether it would be involved in the project.
“Imperial continues to engage in a wide range of exploratory discussions relating to Covid-19 research, with a variety of partners,” a spokesperson said.