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Janssen begins Covid-19 vaccine phase 3 clinical trials in the UK


While UK government announces plans to open testing mega-labs in Leamington Spa and Scotland

Pharmaceutical giant Janssen is beginning trials of its potential Covid-19 vaccine in the UK, as the government announces plans to open two new testing mega-labs in 2021.

The vaccine will be the third to enter clinical trials in the UK, alongside ongoing trials by US biotech company Novavax and another by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. 

It follows reported success in phase 3 trials of two other vaccines, by US-based Pfizer last week, and US-based Moderna today, both of which found a high level of efficacy in interim data.

Recruitment of trial volunteers will complete in March 2021 and the trial will last for 12 months, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced on 16 November.

“The start of further clinical trials in the UK is yet another step forward in the race to discover a safe and effective vaccine, and comes alongside recent news that we could be on the cusp of the first major breakthrough since the pandemic began,” business secretary Alok Sharma said.

“While we are optimistic with the progress being made, there are no guarantees and it is possible there will be no one-size-fits-all vaccine. That is why it is absolutely vital that while our scientists are cracking on with the job, we continue to follow the guidance to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care announced plans to open two new mega-labs to test for coronavirus in Leamington Spa and Scotland in early 2021, which it says will add 600,000 of daily testing capacity when operating at full capacity.

Health secretary Matt Hancock described the expansion of testing as “one of the successes of this pandemic”.

“We didn’t go into this crisis with a significant diagnostics industry, but we have built one, and these two mega-labs are another step forward,” he said.

“Transforming the UK’s diagnostic facilities is not only essential to beating this virus, but it is necessary to build back better—so we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale.”

He added that the labs were “futureproofing” the UK’s national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics, as well as improving care for other diseases, such as cancer.

“The new labs build on our existing testing network, which we created in a matter of months, and confirms the UK as a world leader in diagnostics.”

The announcement comes after the government announced it had increased its testing capacity to 500,000 tests per day. However, on 15 November, the number of tests carried out stood at 379,955.