Pharmaceutical companies expect to soon begin paying “human guinea pigs” £3,500 (upwards of $4,500) to be infected with the coronavirus in a race to discover a vaccine for the disease, The Times reports.
More than 20 firms and public sector organizations are taking part in a global experiment to infect up to 24 people at a time in the hope of finding a vaccine for Covid-19 that can be used by next winter.
With co-funding from Chinese pharmaceuticals firms, the United Kingdom-based Hvivo Company, a filial of Open Orphan, has sought permission from the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to begin testing on humans.
The paid volunteers will be infected with two milder strains of coronavirus, 0C43 and 229E, and then kept in quarantine at Hvivo’s laboratory at Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre in east London, according to The Times.
The infected patients will allow pharmaceuticals firms to test the efficacy of antiviral medications in a safe environment.
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The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which was established in response to the Ebola outbreaks of 2014-2016, is sponsoring four vaccine projects to try to speed up the process of developing an inoculation against the coronavirus. In early February, the CEO of CEPI, Richard Hatchett, said the group hoped to start clinical testing for a new vaccine in just 16 weeks.
“It is increasingly clear that containment measures for COVID-19 can only slow down its spread and the virus is now entering a stage of unprecedented threat in terms of its global impact,” Hatchett said.
“It is critical that we … invest in the development of a vaccine that will prevent people from getting sick,” he said.
Mr. Hatchett said that the development of a workable vaccine could cost upwards of $2 billion.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are more than 20 potential vaccines in development. The profits for pharmaceutical companies who successfully produce a vaccine could be enormous, The Times noted, as the French drugmaker Sanofi, one of the world’s foremost producers of vaccines, made $2.5 billion selling flu vaccines last year.
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