Cambridge coronavirus vaccine enters clinical trial

Safety trials are underway for a Cambridge-led vaccine that could be used as a booster targeting COVID-19 virus variants and relatives that threaten future coronavirus pandemics. The first volunteer is expected to receive the vaccine today at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility.

Developed by Fellow of Darwin College Professor Jonathan Heeney, at the University of Cambridge and spin-out company DIOSynVax, this is a next generation coronavirus vaccine administered through a needle-free ‘injection’ – a blast of air that delivers it into the skin. This offers a possible future alternative to people who fear needle-based jabs. If successful, it could be scaled up and manufactured as a powder to boost global vaccination efforts, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Professor Heeney said: “The response of the scientific and medical communities to the development and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines has been incredible, but as new variants emerge and immunity begins to wane we need newer technologies. It’s vital that we continue to develop new generation vaccine candidates ready to help keep us safe from the next virus threats. Our vaccine is innovative, both in terms of the way it primes the immune system to respond with a broader protective response to coronaviruses, and how it is delivered. Crucially, it is the first step towards a universal coronavirus vaccine we are developing, protecting us not just from COVID-19 variants but from future coronaviruses.”

The full story is on the University website here.  

Dr Mike Rands, the Master of Darwin College, said: "From the very beginning of the pandemic, Jonathan and his team here in Cambridge have worked tirelessly to develop an innovative vaccine that will protect us from both COVID-19, its future variants and from other coronaviruses.  It is very exciting that this vaccine, with its potential for global application – and especially suitable for low and middle income countries – is now progressing to safety trials. The whole College is immensely proud of Jonathan's efforts."

Professor Heeney is Professor of Comparative Pathology and Head of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics at the University of Cambridge.  He has been a Fellow of Darwin College since 2012 and served as co-Vice-Master of the College 2018-2020.