A British pharmaceutical company is set to intentionally infect healthy, young volunteers with COVID-19 to hasten the development of a vaccine, in one of the first “human challenge trials” for a coronavirus inoculation. Such tests typically yield results more quickly than conventional vaccine field trials. hVivo announced Tuesday that it had signed a contract with the British government to develop a COVID-19 human-challenge study model, pending regulatory and ethical review. “Human-challenge studies have been ongoing for many years now—they are a useful way in which we can gain an awful lot of information in a relatively short space of time, from few numbers of people,” said Martin Broadstock, program manager for vaccines at the Medical Research Council, which is an arm of U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI). More than 2,500 U.K. volunteers have signed up to the 1Day Sooner movement, which has been petitioning parliament to support human-challenge trials and fund a challenge-study center to quarantine between 100 and 200 volunteers. Globally, the nonprofit organization advocating for human-challenge study volunteers has attracted more than 38,500 willing participants. Volunteers are likely to be paid around £4,000 ($5,000), said Andrew Catchpole, chief scientific officer of hVivo. Volunteers will be required to remain at the clinical facility under careful observation until they are no longer infectious and test negative for the presence of live coronavirus, the company said.
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