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Shift to New Variant Work

The Independent reports that researchers at Imperial College London are shifting away from testing a COVID-19 vaccine they developed to instead focus on targeting newly emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.

The candidate vaccine, which relies on self-amplifying RNA to spur cells to produce the viral spike protein and generate an immune response, has been in Phase 1 and 2 testing, according to the Independent, but the results are still pending. As the UK already has authorized vaccines — from Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford University-Astra Zeneca — the Imperial College London researchers say in a press release they instead will change gears to develop their technology to combat emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants and generate booster shots to supplement current vaccines.

"Although our first generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate is showing promise in early clinical development, the broader situation has changed with the rapid roll out of approved vaccines," Robin Shattock, from Imperial's Department of Infectious Disease, says in a statement. 

"We want our technology to have the greatest impact," he adds. "That means focusing our UK efforts on developing self-amplifying RNA technology to adapt to new variants, to boost other vaccines, and to be deployed against future pandemic threats."