The Human Viral Challenge (HVC) model, is part of a group of model known as Controlled Human Infection Model (CHIM) and has, for many decades, helped in the understanding of respiratory viruses and their role in disease pathogenesis. In a controlled setting using small numbers of volunteers removed from community exposure to other infections, this experimental model enables proof of concept work to be undertaken on novel therapeutics, including vaccines, immunomodulators and antivirals, as well as new diagnostics.
Crucially, unlike conventional phase 1 studies, challenge studies include evaluable efficacy endpoints that then guide decisions on how to optimise subsequent field studies, as recommended by the FDA and thus licensing studies that follow. Such a strategy optimises the benefit of the studies and identifies possible threats early on, minimising the risk to subsequent volunteers but also maximising the benefit of scarce resources available to the research group investing in the research. Inspired by the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) now commonly applied in the preclinical phase, HVC studies allow refinement and reduction of the subsequent development phase, accelerating progress towards further statistically powered phase 2b studies. The breadth of data generated from challenge studies allows for exploration of a wide range of variables and endpoints that can then be taken through to pivotal phase 3 studies.