Professor Robin Shattock’s team will use the funding to launch phase three clinical trials of their promising new COVID-19 vaccine later this year.
Professor Shattock’s vaccine will begin human trials in June, having been tested with animals since early February.
When injected, the self-amplifying RNA vaccine delivers genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the ‘spike’ protein on the surface of the coronavirus. This provokes an immune response to create immunity to COVID-19.
The new £18.5 million investment for phase three trials at Imperial was announced by Business Secretary Alok Sharma alongside a £65.5 million new investment in University of Oxford vaccine trials, which researchers are also supporting.
It follows £22.5 million of UK government support for phase two trials, announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in April.
Philanthropists are also vital to the vaccine race at Imperial, providing millions of pounds in support to date.
Accelerating effortsProfessor Robin Shattock, Head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College London, said: “This funding will greatly accelerate our efforts to demonstrate the effectiveness of our vaccine and make it available to at risk populations as rapidly as possible. Access to such support allows us to move at unprecedented speed.”
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “Support from government, philanthropists and the British public is making an enormous difference as our scientists urgently develop their promising vaccine for COVID-19. Professor Robin Shattock’s team is making extraordinary progress as they prepare to enter human trials. We are grateful to the government and public for their indispensable contributions.”
Business Secretary Alok Sharma MP said: “I am very proud of how quickly our world-leading scientists and researchers have come together in their efforts to develop a vaccine that will combat coronavirus. Their work has meant that the world’s two front-runners to develop a vaccine are right here in the UK - at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London.
“The support we’re providing to the UK’s most promising vaccine projects underlines the government’s aim to rapidly accelerate vaccine development and ensure that any successful vaccine is made available in the millions as soon as possible.”
Vaccine taskforceThe latest funding for the Imperial and Oxford vaccines was allocated by the UK’s Vaccines Taskforce, chaired by Kate Bingham and established by the Chief Scientific Adviser, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Business Secretary and the Health Secretary.
The Taskforce is supporting efforts to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible by providing industry and research institutions with the resources and support needed. This includes reviewing regulations and scaling up manufacturing so that when a vaccine becomes available, it can be produced quickly and in mass quantities.
Researchers are screening participants for the trial of Professor Shattock’s vaccine, and aim to begin clinical trials in June at the NIHR Imperial Clinical Research Facility.
Members of the public can register their interest by signing up via the NIHR Imperial CRF Healthy Volunteers database .