A researcher works on the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: AFP

A second experimental COVID -19 vaccine from the UK is starting tests in humans this week, relying on cutting-edge technology that scientists hope will allow hundreds of millions of doses to be produced quickly.

Imperial College London's vaccine is backed by 41 million pounds ($52 million) in UK funding along with another 5 million pounds of donations, including contributions from the public, the government said on Monday.

The work, led by Imperial's Robin Shattock, is based on technology called self-amplifying RNA. If the vaccine yields a promising immune response, larger trials would begin later in the year with about 6,000 volunteers. The University of Oxford, working with AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc. and CanSino Biologics Inc., are among the institutions and companies already in clinical trials as governments look for a way to slow the pandemic.

Imperial's RNA vaccine works by injecting new genetic code into muscle, which it instructs to make a protein found on the surface of the virus, triggering a protective immune response. The British university said earlier this month it was setting up an enterprise to distribute its potential vaccine at a low price. With partner Morningside Ventures, Imperial will waive royalties and charge only "modest cost-plus prices" to sustain the enterprise's work, it said.

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