Royal Free to host world's first 'human challenge' Covid trial

An NHS pharmacy technician at the Royal Free Hospital, London, simulates the preparation of the Pfiz

The study will inform the development of Covid vaccines - Credit: PA

The Royal Free Hospital will host the world's first Covid-19 "human challenge" trial in which young adults will be deliberately infected with the virus.  

A total of 90 volunteers aged 18-30 will receive the smallest dose possible of Covid at the Hampstead hospital’s specialist infectious diseases unit.  

The participants will have no previous history or symptoms of the virus and will be paid £4,500 over a year. Having received ethics approval, the trial will start in the next month.  

The study has received £33.6 million from the government and it aims to enable scientists to identify the smallest level of Covid needed to cause infection.  

Researchers will look at how the body’s immune system responds to the virus, aiding the development of Covid vaccines and treatments. 

Caroline Clarke, the Royal Free’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted that this hugely important study has been given ethics approval and are proud to be part of this important partnership which we hope will advance the world’s understanding of Covid-19.  

“The Royal Free Hospital has a great history and tradition of treating and researching infectious diseases and our infectious diseases centre is renowned across the world for its work in this specialist area.  

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“We are looking forward to working alongside all of the partners on such a vital piece of work over the coming months." 

The study is being delivered in partnership between the government's Vaccines Taskforce, Imperial College London, the Royal Free, and hVIVO, which has pioneered viral human challenge models.

Clive Dix, interim chair of the Vaccines Taskforce, said: "We have secured a number of safe and effective vaccines for the UK, but it is essential that we continue to develop new vaccines and treatments for Covid-19. 

“We expect these studies to offer unique insights into how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing the infection." 

The Royal Free’s specialist infectious unit will see medics and scientists closely monitor how the virus behaves in the body, ensuring the safety of volunteers. 

To register interest to take part in the trial visit