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Volunteers needed for mpox vaccine study in London

Volunteers across London are being asked to join a study looking at the effectiveness of an investigational vaccine for mpox, previously known as Monkeypox.

This important study, which is taking place at multiple sites across the UK including four in London, is supported by the NIHR and sponsored by Moderna. The study, which is being led from Bristol, is the first study that Moderna is running entirely in the UK.

The study is taking place in London at:

  • Mile End Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust
  • Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  • University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH)

Since 2022 there has been an increased transmission of mpox identified in the UK. Common symptoms of the mpox virus include a rash, fever, chills, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat. In the UK and Europe there is currently only one vaccine licensed for immunisation against mpox.

"People who will participate in this trial will be part of advancing research that will maybe change lives."

Londoner Harun Tulunay, a 36-year-old sexual health advocate, was exposed to the mpox virus in June 2022. At first he thought his symptoms — high fever, shivers and swollen lymph nodes — were due to COVID-19 or a flu. But as the painful blister on his face began to grow, from the size of a pimple to cover most of his nose, he started to worry it was something else.

Eventually he was referred for an mpox test at a sexual health clinic. But before he could receive his results his symptoms worsened. Unable to eat or drink due to the lesions in his throat, he was admitted to hospital and treated with an antiviral drug, which was originally developed for smallpox.

"It was an unbearably painful experience," Harun recalls.

Harun, who volunteered for COVID-19 vaccine trials during the pandemic, is encouraging others to play a part in the prevention of mpox. He hopes the mPower trial will help widen the availability of vaccination in the UK and abroad.

"As a man living with HIV, I took part in Covid trials and other trials to help other people — people really need to approach this from that perspective.

"People who will participate in this trial will be part of advancing research that will maybe change lives. Being a part of that is such a great feeling — I know that from my own experience."

"...I feel like we live in a world where everyone has more scientific awareness and knows a bit more about how vaccines are made — so I felt reassured by that."

Isabella, 29, is a clinical trials manager from East London. Despite helping to run studies at Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute, she has never taken part in one herself.

When she heard that the mPower Trial was looking for 'healthy' volunteers, she decided to put herself forward for the jab. The news of the mpox outbreak was still very recent and she wanted to help where she could.

"In pre-Covid days I might have been a bit cautious about clinical trials, even though I work in them myself. There’s something about signing up to receive an injection as a healthy volunteer that is perhaps a barrier and makes you think twice," Isabella explained. "But I feel like we live in a world where everyone has more scientific awareness and knows a bit more about how vaccines are made — so I felt reassured by that."

Isabella said taking part in the trial was easy and convenient. She was able to schedule appointments around her work schedule and the research team at Mile End Hospital, where she took part, was friendly and answered all her questions.

"I enjoy going to visit," she said. "It’s just been a really nice experience. And I feel like I’m doing something useful and giving back."

"Barts Health cares for some of the most diverse populations in the UK..."

Dr Kieran McCafferty, who is leading the trial at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: "I'm very proud that the vaccine centre team at Mile End Hospital are involved in delivering the mPower trial and that we can play our part in preventing more people getting mpox.

"Barts Health cares for some of the most diverse populations in the UK and it's our hope that people from these communities will take part in the trial so we can be confident any mpox vaccine developed works for everyone."

Prof Vincenzo Libri, Director of the NIHR UCLH Clinical Research Facility and Principal Investigator of the mPower trial at UCLH, said: "The lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the pivotal role of vaccines in fighting global viral threats. This study is a very important step towards the development of an additional vaccine for mpox. Volunteers who come forward will play a vital role in the efforts to prevent its spread here and abroad."

"Volunteers are playing a vital role and we are very grateful..."

Dr Margherita Bracchi, Principal Investigator of the study at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We're very pleased to be able to offer the opportunity to take part in this study to our patients and local community.

"Mpox is still a global health risk so we need more vaccines to make sure we are ready for any potential spikes in infection rates. Volunteers are playing a vital role and we are very grateful to all who are coming forward."

Volunteers aged between 18 and 49 years old will be randomly selected to either receive one of three dose levels of the investigational mpox vaccine, or a placebo.

Investigational means it has not been approved by any of the regulatory agencies in the world, including the United Kingdom regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).

Find out more

Health and care research can only improve and save lives with the help of volunteers. To find out more about participating in this study, visit the trial website.

The study is also using the Be Part of Research volunteer registry to find suitable participants. The first UK-wide registry for all health and care specialties, it makes finding and taking part in research easier than ever. It also helps researchers and sponsors recruit more quickly and effectively.

People interested in taking part in health and care research can register their details and will be sent information on studies taking place near them.