The new Antivirals Taskforce, which is yet to appoint a chair, will search for the most promising potential antiviral medicines which can be taken at home.
They will aim to determine what dose of virus is needed to re-infect after natural infection, how the immune system responds, and what this may mean for developing protective immunity against the disease. Researchers will test the baseline of immune response of volunteers before they infect them and then measure the amount of virus they can detect after the infection.
Oxford University is now looking to carry out a study to find out how the immune system reacts to being infected with the virus a second time.
At this time, given the regular news worldwide of re-infection cases of those who have recovered from the coronavirus disease, not much is known about what happens to people who have already been infected with the virus and become infected again.
The first phase, involving 64 healthy volunteers, will aim to establish the lowest dose of virus which can take hold and start replicating.
Then in the second phase, another group of volunteers will all receive this established minimum dose.
Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at the department of paediatrics, University of Oxford and chief investigator on the study, said: "Challenge studies tell us things that other studies can not because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled".
They will also measure the immune response at several time points after infection to understand what immune response is generated by the virus.
While vaccines and previous infections provide some immune protection against the coronavirus, concerns and doubts remain about how long it lasts.
"A challenge study allows us to make these measurements very precisely because we know exactly when someone is infected".
Chief investigator Prof Helen McShane, from the University of Oxford, said: "Challenge studies tell us things that other studies can not because, unlike natural infection, they are tightly controlled".
The original strain of COVID-19 from Wuhan is going to be used because this is the one that scientists have the most information about, but another variant could also be included.
They will be quarantined for at least 17 days in a special hospital suite, having lung and heart scans.
Through the Recovery Trial run in hospitals, the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of developing treatments for people who are already severely ill.
They will be discharged only when they are no longer contagious.
Within 12 months of the study's duration, the scientists will conduct at least eight follow-up check-ups after being discharged. This human challenge trial expands on an ongoing study deliberately infecting healthy subjects to test vaccine efficacy.
Nurses treat a COVID-19 patient in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) at Milton Keynes University Hospital, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Milton Keynes, Britain, Jan 20, 2021.