UQ starts test production of Covid-19 vaccine
A research team at the University of Queensland, with funding from the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), has successfully created a Covid-19 vaccine that will be soon ready for pre-clinical testing.
This announcement comes following a breakthrough by Australian scientists who have successfully recreated the virus in the laboratory. Researchers at the university developed the test vaccine in six weeks using the world-first molecular clamp technology invented in Australia.
A test dose of the new Covid-19 vaccine is currently being produced in a facility located in Melbourne. Scientists will begin pre-clinical testing for the vaccine within several days.
Commenting on this progress, vice-Chancellor, and president of the university, Peter Høj AC said, “There is still extensive testing to ensure that the vaccine candidate is safe and creates an effective immune response, but the technology and the dedication of these researchers mean the first hurdle has been passed.”
Head of the university’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, Paul Young, said that the team of 20 scientists had been working around the clock to speed up the vaccine building process since the outbreak of the virus.
The university began research on the vaccine upon the release of its genetic sequence by the Chinese government last month, which gave the team the viral genome they needed to take and express, Young said.
He added, “A key milestone is actually generating the vaccine prior to putting it into animal studies. We will be going into our first animal studies at the University of Queensland this week, to be followed not long after [by] studies at the Australian Animal Health laboratories at the CSIRO in Geelong.”
COVID-19 VACCINE UPDATE:
The long days in the lab have paid off.
A #UQ team has met a key milestone in their fast-tracked research to develop a vaccine for the #Coronavirus COVID-19.@CEPIvaccines @ProfPaulYoung
Read more: https://t.co/CLSdghFDLc pic.twitter.com/FNQ6IYmByd
— UQ News (@UQ_News) February 21, 2020
Young added that while the work being done by the university is promising, it may be one of the many teams around the world working on developing the Covid-19 vaccine.
He added that there may already be multiple versions of the vaccine that are all equally effective in fighting the virus.
“The best thing that can happen is happening now — that is, there is a wide number of groups working toward vaccine approaches, and quite frankly the first one that gets there it will be great,” Young said.
He also added that the research team is aiming to develop the vaccine, from concept to license and use in the community within 12 to 18 months.
To achieve this, the university’s research team has developed 100 different versions of a protein to work out which would be most effective against the virus.
The team now plans to conduct pre-clinical trials and hoped to undertake human trials by the middle of the year.
The trials that will be conducted will test if the vaccine can successfully induce the immune response that is expected. The team hopes to start manufacturing high concentrations of the vaccine in a pure enough state to enable human testing.