Cambridge researchers are trying to find potential vaccines against viral diseases including Ebola, Lassa Fever, influenza viruses and Coronaviruses. New and improved vaccines are needed against emerging diseases, as well as against existing infectious diseases where existing vaccines do not offer 100% protection or where protection is only short-lived.
A project led by Professor Jonathan Heeney in the Lab of Viral Zoonotics, Department of Veterinary Medicine is looking for potential vaccines against viral diseases including COVID-19. Most of the greatest disease threats to humans come from viruses that naturally infect animals; these are called zoonotic viruses because of their animal origins.The induction of the immune responses is complex, and has never been achieved in cells in a laboratory setting. Hamsters, mice and Guinea pigs are being used as models to provide the complex interactions of a whole body system. Animal models can establish that a potential vaccine is safe and can provide protection against disease before it is trialled in humans.
In August 2020 a vaccine candidate against the group of Bat Coronaviruses that caused SARS and COVID-19, which arose from this work, received £1.9 million from UK government for clinical trials in the UK. (See also: Guinea pigs).