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On 7th February 2020, the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford agreed a contract with Advent Srl, in Italy to produce the first batch of the novel coronavirus vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 for clinical testing. The vaccine ‘seed stock’ is currently being produced at the University’s Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility. This will be transferred to Advent who will initially produce 1000 doses for the first clinical trials of this vaccine.

The Jenner Institute has been working on a vaccine against another coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has been shown to induce strong immune responses against MERS after a single dose of the vaccine in the first clinical trial which took place in Oxford. A second clinical trial of the MERS vaccine is underway in Saudi Arabia, which is where most MERS cases have occurred. The same approach to making the vaccine is being taken for the novel coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccines are produced using a safe version of an adenovirus; another virus that can cause a common cold-like illness. The adenovirus has been modified so that it cannot reproduce within the body, and the genetic code to provide instructions for making the coronavirus Spike protein has been added, enabling the adenovirus to produce this protein after vaccination. That results in the formation of antibodies to the Spike protein, which is found on the surface of coronaviruses. In someone who has been vaccinated, antibodies to the Spike can bind to the coronavirus and stop it from causing an infection.

Novel pathogens such as nCoV-19 require rapid vaccine development. By using technology that is known to work well for another coronavirus vaccine we are able to reduce the time taken to prepare for clinical trials. Advent are working with the Jenner Institute to move as rapidly as possible.