A professor at Oxford University has spent decades trying to perfect a vaccine for malaria. His work may have given researchers a big head start in trying to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute, is part of a team that was preparing for a global pandemic even before the COVID-19 outbreak began, the BBC reports. Professor Sarah Gilbert, the lead researcher, recently used a genetically engineered chimpanzee virus used in Hill's research to create a vaccine for MERS, another coronavirus. The same approach is now being used to create a vaccine for the new coronavirus and she says she's "80% sure" it will work. The Oxford team had enough safety data on similar vaccines to allow "unusually accelerated" human trials, the the New York Times reports.
The institute, one of the world's largest nonprofit vaccine centers, has put all other projects on hold while it races to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Dozens of other teams worldwide are working toward the same goal. "The whole world doesn’t usually stand up and say, 'How can we help? Do you want some money,'" Hill tells the Times. A trial involving 5,000 people will begin next month and manufacturing capacity is already being ramped up. Hill says victory will be declared when a dozen people given a placebo develop COVID-19, compared to only one or two of another group given the vaccine. "Then we have a party and tell the world." He says that one problem for researchers might be the success of lockdown measures in Britain in slowing the spread of the virus. "We might have to chase the epidemic" to conduct trials in places where the virus is still spreading widely, the professor says. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)