CSIRO starts pre-clinical trials for potential Covid-19 vaccines

CSIRO starts pre-clinical trials for potential Covid-19 vaccines

The first stage of testing Covid-19 vaccine candidates has commenced at CSIRO's high-containment biosecurity facility in Geelong today.

The testing, which is expected to take around three months, is being conducted in partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) - a group that aims to derail epidemics by speeding up the development of vaccines.

In consultation with the World Health Organisation (WHO), CEPI has identified vaccine candidates from the University of Oxford and Inovio Pharmaceuticals to undergo the first pre-clinical trials at CSIRO, with further candidates likely to follow.

"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," says CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall.

"CSIRO researchers are working around-the-clock to combat this disease which is affecting so many whether it's at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) or at our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility we will keep working until this viral enemy is defeated."

While the focus of the testing program will focus on how effective the vaccines are against the coronavirus the CSIRO is also investigating the best way to administer the vaccine for better protection, whether that be an injection or via a nasal spray.

The CSIRO's work on Covid-19 goes back all the way to January when CEPI engaged the Australian organisation to start researching the virus SARS CoV-2 which causes the disease Covid-19.

Director of AAHL and the leader of the CSIRO's Covid-19 virus and vaccine program Professor Trevor Drew says the team is now in the best position to begin vaccine trials.

"We have been studying SARS CoV-2 since January and getting ready to test the first vaccine candidates as soon as they are available," says Professor Drew.

"We are carefully balancing operating at speed with the critical need for safety in response to this global public health emergency."

CSIRO's COVID-19 research so far:

  • CSIRO 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 and research on COVID-19.
  • CSIRO successfully established a biological model in February 2020, the first in the world to confirm ferrets react to SARS-CoV-2. Researchers have quickly progressed to studying the course of infection in the animals a crucial step in understanding if a vaccine will work.
  • CSIRO researchers confirmed, after studying SARS CoV-2's genomic sequence that the virus is presently changing into a number of distinct 'clusters' and are now starting to look at how this may also impact on the development of a vaccine.

Updated at 10:20AM AEDT on 2 April 2020.

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