Medical trial equipment

After successful trials in mice,  since June  Anna and Paul’s team at St Mary’s Hospital have been carrying out the first human trials of a brand new type of RNA vaccine with the potential to protect a significant proportion of the whole world’s population.

The approach that the team are taking forward is revolutionary, both in comparison to other teams around the world who are fighting COVID-19, and in the history of vaccination development more widely.  While most vaccines ever developed involve injecting a small amount of the virus into your body,  the Imperial team are using RNA, the genetic material underpinning the surface proteins of the virus and injecting that into test patients.

The aim is the same as a normal vaccine – to kick start the body’s immune system to create antibodies to fight it off. However, there is nothing of the virus inside those surface proteins. Instead it is tricking your immune system to thinking it is seeing the whole virus to elicit the required immune response. The advantage is we only need a tiny dose. 2 million doses can come from a single litre of vaccine as opposed to the 10,000 litres of vaccine that would be required by traditional methods.

During this Reddit AMA Anna and Paul will be taking questions from you. What is it like to work on a vaccine the whole world is waiting for? How they are ensuring that the vaccine is effective but also safe? And what is the role of vaccines within society beyond COVID-19?

Imperial Lates Online

This event is part of Imperial Lates Online: Heathcare Heroes. Tune in to explore cutting-edge science and engineering in our week-long digital celebration of science from 28 September to 4 October.

Imperial Lates Online are most suitable for over 18s.

See the full Lates events programme >

Lates Online