(AP) — UK researchers are preparing to begin a controversial experiment that will infect healthy volunteers with the new coronavirus to study the disease in hopes of speeding up development of a vaccine.
The approach, called a challenge study, is risky but proponents say it may produce results faster than standard research, which waits to see if volunteers who have been given an experimental treatment get sick.
Imperial College London said Tuesday that the study, involving healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30, would be conducted in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and hVivo, a company that has experience conducting testing.
Professor Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study, says that “deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly. However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19.”
In the first phase, researchers will aim to determine the smallest level of exposure needed to cause the disease. Researchers will then use the same challenge model to study how potential vaccines work in the body, the body’s immune response and potential treatments.