April 2, 2020
The CSIRO has begun the first stage of testing potential vaccines for COVID-19.
The testing, expected to take three months, is under way at CSIRO’s high-containment biosecurity facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.
In January, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – a global group that aims to speed up vaccine development – engaged the CSIRO to start working on SARS CoV-2, the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease.
In consultation with the World Health Organisation, CEPI has identified vaccine candidates from the University of Oxford (UK) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (US) to undergo the first pre-clinical trials at CSIRO.
Further candidates are likely to follow.
CSIRO has also be doing other work to tackle COVID-19, including scaling up other potential vaccine candidates at its biologics production facility in Melbourne.
It was the first research organisation outside of China to generate sufficient stock of the virus — using the virus strain isolated by the Doherty Institute — to enable pre-clinical studies.
“Beginning vaccine candidate testing at CSIRO is a critical milestone in the fight against COVID-19, made possible by collaboration both within Australia and across the globe,” CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said.
He said CSIRO researchers were working around-the-clock to combat this disease.
The CSIRO is also evaluating the best way to give the vaccine for better protection, including an intra-muscular injection and innovative approaches like a nasal spray.
“We have been studying SARS CoV-2 since January and getting ready to test the first vaccine candidates as soon as they are available,” Professor Trevor Drew, who is leading the work, said.
“We are carefully balancing operating at speed with the critical need for safety in response to this global public health emergency.”