A new “self-amplifying” RNA vaccine currently being developed at The British Laboratory at the Imperial College in London could be produced faster and cheaper than existing COVID-19 vaccines according to a report in The New York Times today.

See our Vaccine Tracker and Timetable where we track minute-by-minute updates on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine including this vaccine by Imperial College.

The lead scientist, Robert Shattock, pioneered the technology of self-amplifying RNA which allows the development to outpace others at a lower cost. The College hopes to make this vaccine available to the UK as well as low-income countries.

According to a news article from the College today, “For COVID-19, the technology is used to deliver genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the ‘spike’ protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. This evokes an immune response in the host to produce immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” Shattock was able to source genetic code from the virus from China and complete initial trials in early January.

The lead investor, Morningside, and the Imperial college are setting up a new company to develop the "underlying self-amplifying RNA technology" called VaXEquity. The COVID-19 vaccine will enter Phase I trials on June 15th with 300 participants followed by a follow up study of 6,000 participants in October.

The reason for the faster pace can be attributed to the self-amplifying technology of the vaccine where a smaller manufacturing footprint will be used to produce “tens of millions of vaccines” through next year.

The article describes the impact of their vaccine as: "For the UK and low-income countries abroad, Imperial and VGH will waive royalties and charge only modest cost-plus prices to sustain the enterprise’s work, accelerate global distribution and support new research."

"The social enterprise’s mission is to rapidly develop vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and distribute them as widely as possible in the UK and overseas, including to low- and middle-income countries."

Following trials, the College expects to deliver vaccines to the public starting with UK residents by early 2021.

Cover Photo: Microbe Project in the Microbiology Laboratory, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Culture plate being placed on the automated monopolar REIMS system.