Covid-19 vaccine trial kicks off in Seattle

Researchers in the Northwestern US city of Seattle are recruiting healthy adult volunteers to participate in an investigational vaccine trial aimed at protecting against Covid-19.

The Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating the possible vaccine has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle, and will enroll 45 volunteers aged between 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks.

The first participant received the investigational vaccine today (16 March US West Coast Time).

The study is funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), whose scientists developed the experimental vaccine in collaboration with biotechnology company Moderna Inc from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) supported the manufacturing of the vaccine candidate, known as mRNA-1273.

The study will evaluate different doses for safety and the vaccine's ability to induce an immune response in participants.

"Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority," says NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci MD.

"This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal."

Last month a University of Queensland team met a key milestone in their fast-tracked research to develop a vaccine for this new form of coronavirus.

The scientists created their first vaccine candidate in the space of three weeks and planned to move immediately into further development before formal pre-clinical testing.

UQ is also working with the same coalition, CEPI, that is helping the US researchers to manufacture their vaccine candidate.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj AC said the team had  shown considerable progress in line with the highly accelerated time frame of the rapid response program, and the long hours in the lab had paid off with this achievement.

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 means the first hurdle has been passed," Professor Høj said.

The work in the lab shows the feasibility of using UQ's 'molecular clamp' technology to engineer a vaccine candidate that could be more readily recognised by the immune system, triggering a protective immune response.

The next stage is to produce this on a larger scale needed for additional testing, to determine its effectiveness against the virus.

Researchers said the early research had gone 'as expected' and the material created had the properties which allowed the team to proceed with vaccine development.



Updated at 12:57pm AEDT on 20 March 2020.

NSW Government announces $2.3b stimulus package

A $2.3 billion stimulus package announced today by the NSW Government will go towards protecting the economy, jobs and the health of the state's community.

The package has two components; $700 million for extra health funding and $1.6 billion in tax cuts for NSW businesses including:

  • $450 million for the waiver of payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months (the rest of 2019-20). This means these businesses will save a quarter of their annual payroll tax bill in 2019-20;
  • $56 million to bring forward the next round of payroll tax cuts by raising the threshold limit to $1 million in 2020-21;
  • $80 million to waive a range of fees and charges for small businesses including bars, cafes, restaurants and tradies;
  • $250 million to employ additional cleaners of public infrastructure such as transport assets, schools and other public buildings;
  • More than $250 million to bring forward maintenance on public assets including social housing and crown land fencing; and
  • $500 million to bring forward capital works and maintenance.

NSW Health will receive $700 million of extra funding to assist in doubling ICU capacity, preparing for additional Covid-19 testing, purchasing additional ventilators and medical equipment, establishing acute respiratory clinics, and bringing forward elective surgeries to private hospitals.

"The Government stands ready to do whatever it takes to keep people safe and ensure our economy withstands this storm," says NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.

"Today we are injecting $700 million into the health system and almost $1.6 billion to boost business. In simple terms, this money will help save the lives of loved ones and protect jobs.

"We are supporting business by lowering their costs through tax cuts and fee reductions, and working to boost jobs by funding ready-to-go capital work and maintenance projects as a priority."

Updated 12.23pm AEDT on 17 March 2020.

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