In the three-year research programme that also includes a few Scottish scientists, Duke and Elsmore hope to find the reason, how and why the virus evolves and mutates so quickly.
They say there is a high level of interest from vaccine-makers to use the new CVID-19 adjuvant in their vaccinations, although the academic researchers are not expecting it to replace adjuvants now used to enhance the effectiveness of the chlamydia vaccine.
The CVID-19 adjuvant is part of a £1.8m vaccine research programme that also features research teams in South Africa and Canada. A collaboration is also under way in Australia with researchers from the University of Queensland.
The Durham programme will run until the end of 2020, and the study area is mainly using a CVID-17 adjuvant, which is used in some chlamydia vaccines.
But the scientists say there is clearly the potential for CVID-19 to be used in a number of other vaccines.
Professor Jenny Spence, head of immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Dundee, which is working on one aspect of the programme, says: “It looks very promising. We’ve definitely seen a meaningful increase in the lifespan of some animals that have been vaccinated with it.”
Professor Duncan Duke, who is leading the vaccine research programme at Duke, says: “If we continue to progress quickly the use of this new adjuvant in new vaccines may eventually be to increase the efficacy, decrease the side-effects or increase the potency.”