New CHIM research facility to open at Antwerp University

The University of Antwerp and Brussels Francophone Free University (ULB) have announced plans to open at research centre at Antwerp University’s campus in Wilrijk where controlled tests will be carried out on humans to help speed up work to develop vaccines. The two universities announced their plans in a press statement released on Monday. The Federal Government is to invest 20 euro in the project.

Scientists say that Controlled Human Infection Models' (CHIM) will play a key role in the development of vaccines. In the CHIM process healthy human guinea pigs are infected with a weakened version of an ailment to allow possible treatments to be tested.

Professor Pierre Van Damme of Antwerp University told journalists that "Thanks to CHIM Studies vaccines can be developed and tested more quickly and this method is relatively cheap”.

Academic CHIM facilities are relatively rare in mainland Europe and in Belgium just one CHIM study has been carried out. This was in 2017 when scientists from Antwerp University carried out tests on two people to help them with the development of a polio vaccine

While the 2017 study was carried out at a temporary facility, Antwerp University and the ULB now intend to set up a permanent facility for a pan-European anti-infection unit at the Drie Eiken Campus in Wilrijk. The complex will have 30 beds. Meanwhile, a state of the art immunology laboratory will be built at the ULB in Brussels.

The project, costing 40 euro, will be financed with a mix of public and private funding. Half of the cash with come from Belgium’s Federal Government with the universities now looking for private sponsors to foot the rest of the bill.