While the Australian government was last week trumpeting securing an arrangement for an Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine, the Australian-made solution took a major step forward on Wednesday.
The pre-clinical testing of the University of Queensland (UQ) vaccine, one of the nine vaccine candidates currently being evaluated by the World Health Organization (WHO), has produced positive indications about its potential effectiveness and manufacturability.
UQ project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell has reported to the International Society for Vaccines on data from animal trials conducted in the Netherlands.
“The neutralising immune response created by our molecular clamp vaccine in animal models was better than the average level of antibodies found in patients who have recovered from COVID-19,” Dr Chappell said.
“In hamster models, the vaccine combined with the Seqirus MF59 adjuvant, provided protection against virus replication, and reduced lung inflammation following exposure to the virus.
“It also induces a strong T-cell response and showed strong results when it came to data relating to manufacturability.”
Creating a vaccine that works is only one side of the equation, however, as the other important factor is the ability to produce it in mass quantities.
Dr Chappell said that the UQ vaccine had also made important strides in that regard and could be ready for large-scale testing by the end of the year.
“One of the big challenges in the development of vaccines is the ability to produce them at sufficient scale for widespread use,” Dr Chappell said.
“We are working with CSL to ensure the production yield is as efficient as possible, and have every confidence they will be able to manufacture the millions of doses required to protect the Australian public.
“The Phase 1 study being conducted in Queensland is progressing well and assuming the study demonstrates adequate safety and immune responses, data should be available in time for CSL to commence the required large-scale efficacy study before the end of the year.”
Queensland’s innovation minister Kate Jones said the results were a huge milestone in the development of an Australian vaccine.
“A vaccine is vital in putting an end to this pandemic,” Ms Jones said. “The sooner we can produce a coronavirus vaccine, the sooner life will get back to normal.”
Dr Chappell refused to be drawn on how this vaccine compared to others around the globe and stressed how important it was for the world’s researchers to work together on finding on a vaccine.
“From the outset we’ve been clear that we are racing against the virus and not against other projects, and now more than ever it is important for the scientific world to work together,” Dr Chappell said.
“At the moment it is not possible to compare the immune response between vaccines as different teams are using different assays and methods to test virus neutralisation.
“We hope that by sharing data and comparing it to an international reference standard we will inspire other teams to do the same.”
Do you think the Australian vaccine will be the most effective? Do you think Australians will benefit from having first access to this vaccine if it is proven effective?
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