June 16 (UPI) -- British researchers this week will start human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by infectious diseases experts at Imperial College London, officials said.
The vaccine, which has received more than $50 million in government funding, will soon enter early-phase testing for safety and efficacy, British Business Minister Alok Sharma announced.
"The fast progress of Imperial's vaccine is testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of Britain's researchers," Sharma said Monday. "If these trials are successful a vaccine will not only help us tackle coronavirus but also emerging diseases now and into the future."
Robin Shattock, lead researcher at Imperial College, said the effort could lead to benefits beyond just the current health crisis.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and had a huge impact on daily life," he said. "In the long term, a viable vaccine could be vital for protecting the most vulnerable, enabling restrictions to be eased and helping people to get back to normal life."
The initial safety trial will involve two doses given to 300 patients. If successful, a stage-three trial with 6,000 patients is planned in the coming months.
The Imperial College vaccine candidate uses synthetic strands of the novel coronavirus' genetic code to generate an antibody response.
This is the second COVID-19 vaccine candidate to enter clinical trials in Britain. Oxford University, partnering with AstraZeneca, entered its candidate into second-phase human trials last month.