LONDON

Imperial College London and a group of researchers are preparing trials that will deliberately infect dozens of volunteers with coronavirus to speed up development of a vaccine.

The research, a human challenge study, will be carried out in collaboration with the NHS, and hVIVO – a company that specializes in viral human challenge models.

The UK government will invest £33.6 million ($43.4 million) into the scheme.

The trial will recruit healthy adults between ages 18 and 30, who would be injected with a potential vaccine, and then be exposed to coronavirus. Subject to regulatory approval, it will begin in January, with results expected by May.

There are ethical concerns with regards to infecting healthy individuals with a virus, but researchers say this process helps identify the most effective vaccines that could help end the pandemic.

“The proportion of participants becoming infected and the amount of virus that they subsequently shed will be tracked to better understand the course of infection,” the public research university said in a statement.

Chris Chiu, the lead researcher, said no study is completely risk free, but they will be working hard to ensure risks are as minimum as possible.

“The UK’s experience and expertise in human challenge trials as well as in wider COVID-19 science will help us tackle the pandemic, benefiting people in the UK and worldwide,” he said.

More than 100 coronavirus vaccines are in development across the world to ease the global crisis.

The disease has infected more than 40 million people and killed 1.1 million in 189 countries, according to the latest figures by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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