at the End of march was created, the United States, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to assist the laboratories to shorten the time of development of a vaccine against the Covid-19 recruiting volunteers willing to participate in clinical trials that the Americans designate under the name of "Human Challenge" Trials " (or HCT). These tests are designed to expose intentionally the individuals to an infectious agent. The "guinea pigs" who were injected with the virus then develop antibodies may be involved in the manufacture of a vaccine or treatment...
For the past two months, more than 25 000 people, from a hundred countries, are registered on the platform of the association 1DaySooner, according to a counter posted on its website. In an interview, conducted in early may, Josh Morrison, co-founder of this organization, referred to the fact that several dozen French were part of this. The Point has desired to gather the testimony of some of these volunteers to understand their motivation knowing that they will be compensated according to a schedule which is not yet stopped at the time where are written these lines. We also wanted to know their hopes and, possibly, their fears in the face of risks they will expose themselves.
We have therefore made contact with Julia Murdza, director of the organization and, as such, in charge of the legal department and relationships with the volunteers. She gave us the latest statistics on the matter, indicating to us that the two biggest purveyors of the "guinea pigs" humans are the United States (11 446 volunteers), and Brazil (7 575). And then come to Canada (996) and India (495). In Europe : the United Kingdom (330), Spain (243) and Germany (169) supersede by far France. Our country did, in effect as of 28 may, 67 candidates. The association has put us in relationship with three of them. While 78 prototypes of vaccine are under development around the world, and that a dozen are entered in the test phase on humans since the month of march, here is what these volunteers have told us.
Read also Volunteers to test vaccines against the Covid-19
Mary L. Haywood, American, 40 years of age, has the sense of useful participation in the scientific adventure that constitutes the development of an antidote to coronavirus. © DR Mary L. Haywood, 40 years.
The American, who has lived in Paris since almost two years, has heard of the association 1DaySooner in the press. "I think it was in an article in the New York Times, towards the end of April. I immediately went on the site for me to document and the business case that was developed seemed to me to be very convincing. The protocol HCT can help to reduce the delays in the development of a vaccine against the Covid-19. However, each hour counts if we want to save the maximum number of people. 7 000 lives could be saved every day if we advance the date of placing on the market of treatments and vaccines ", provides this forty-something woman who displays little interest for the financial compensation that will be offered to volunteers.
according To the former librarian of the Durham (North Carolina), who came to perform at the Sorbonne, a master's degree in French literature, however, this is not a form of altruism that has motivated his gesture. After a family is episcopalian but is claiming to be agnostic, the forty-something woman in no way anticipates its approach as a "sacrifice" made for the good of humanity. "When I enrolled, I thought first of my five nieces and nephews, as my goddaughter. I know that by me volunteering, I'll allow, indirectly, to avoid that they are too long out of school. This delights me, because I am fearful of the pernicious effects of social exclusion on young children. But if I analyse my motives, I have to acknowledge that it's mostly my curiosity that has played a role. I'm always interested in scientific issues. And I find very appealing the idea of being able to concretely participate in a program of research ", she analyzes. Listed for a month on the listings of the association, Mary is now waiting to be contacted by a laboratory.
Is she worried ? "Not more than that," she says. "I have confidence in the seriousness of the medical protocols. Compared to other risks, I believe that the commitment that I take is not unreasonable ", expresses the literary. His family seems more anxious than she was. "My parents have understood my approach, but my brothers and sisters tried to dissuade me by pointing out the fact that we still know not much of the side effects of this pathology. I told them that, in any case, I had chances to fall one day or the other sick. As much as this is done in a hospital environment and that this will serve to something, " she says.
Jean, 22 years.
Freshly graduated from an engineering school, John (who requested anonymity) would have had to be in an internship abroad, at the time it is. "If the confinement I was forced to stay in France, I would be in London at this time," he says. Unwilling to sit idly by, in this crisis, the young man first volunteered to work in the laundry of the hospital of the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, in Paris. "For three weeks, I sorted the dirty laundry and clean laundry, emptied the washing machine and filled the kilns," says-t it. "It is falling on the Twitter account of an epidemiologist, american [Marc Lipsitch of the department of immunology at Harvard, editor's NOTE] that I learned of the existence of the Human Challenge Trials (HCT) : a procedure that does not have an acceptable translation in French, but that goes well beyond the simple therapeutic trial classic as it is to infect intentionally individuals. By doing this, the HCT can help to accelerate the development of a vaccine by replacing the phase 3 clinical testing, " says the boy. "In me documenting it, I realized that the health risks were relatively low. This is why I decided to volunteer. "
likewise, John does not do this for the money. "I understand that financial compensation is offered to compensate volunteers. But I would still have a candidate if there was no salary, " he says. Where draw-t-he so motivated ? In a value system, religious ? "No, my approach is ultrarationnelle," retorted he. It does not consider, either, his action as heroic. "The firefighters are heroic, because they are exposing themselves to real dangers. From my side, the risks are minimal ", glisse-t-il. Jean commend, at this stage, do not feed any anxiety (unlike her parents) about any side effects that could cause in him the inoculation of the virus. "I'm not part of the population considered to be vulnerable. But, of course, I continue to document, and if it appears that my project is unreasonable, I reserve the right to me to retract. It is well specified on the website of the platform that our commitment is not irrevocable. "In the meantime, the young man is pleased that its approach has inspired some of his friends. "I haven't done evangelism. We just discussed my approach, " explains Jean.
Stephanie Vargas, Mexican 32-year-old, herself a researcher in genomics, knows how long to put in place a clinical trial. By volunteering, she hopes to contribute to shorten the time. © DR Stephanie Vargas Abonce, 32 years.
Born in Mexico, this thirty-year-old displayed an impressive CV. Trained at the national autonomous University of Mexico (at the prestigious Unam), this scientist specializing in genomics has moved to Paris six years ago to complete her studies. After having defended her thesis at the Collège de France (his phd focusing to deepen the state of knowledge about the lou gehrig's disease), Stephanie Vargas now works at the Centre for interdisciplinary research in biology, attached to both the CNRS and Inserm. There, she develops new treatments against Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, including based homeoprotein. "If I volunteered, it is that, being a researcher myself, I know how difficult it is to gather volunteers for a clinical trial protocol. The procedures to obtain the authorizations is very long and the candidates are often few in number. By registering on this platform, I know that I can contribute, simply, to shorten the time of development of a vaccine or a new treatment, accepting of me to inject an attenuated form of the virus, " issues with it.
The geneticist justified its approach by citing all the vaccines that have been developed from human testing of type HCT : "The formula of the first vaccine against smallpox was developed as well. But those against influenza, typhoid, cholera or malaria as well, " she argues. The scientist says it is ready to be put between parentheses, its work to participate in this project as a guinea pig. "I would even say that I'm pretty excited about it. Because we all know that it is a race against the clock, " she said. Stephanie is now waiting for his phone rings and the Pasteur Institute or the Sanofi group call. "But I know that many pre-studies still to be done, and I'm not certain to be selected," she smiles.