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Queensland Researchers Begin Testing Covid-19 Vaccine On The Live Virus

A team of scientists in Queensland are one step closer to determining if the Covid-19 vaccine they produced actually works.

Researchers at the University of Queensland’s (UQ) said their potential Covid-19 vaccine is entering a significant new phase of testing which will help determine how well it can protect against the deadly disease.

As part of the trial the UQ team will work alongside Dutch company, Viroclinics Xplore, on the crucial pre-clinical studies.

Vaccine program co-leader, Dr Keith Chappell, said these protection studies must be done in specialist biosecurity facilities because they use the live virus.

Image: UQ

"Our long-standing partnership with Viroclinics Xplore gives us the confidence that this can be achieved as quickly as possible,” Dr Chappell said.

“This work will establish a critical package of data that will take us through to human clinical trials in Q3 2020.”

This means researchers are hoping to begin testing on humans about July.

UQ used rapid response technology from the Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine, which only took three weeks to produce.

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The development also drew on UQ's molecular clamp technology, which locks the ‘spike’ protein into a shape, allowing the immune system to recognise and then neutralise the virus.

As the team looks to move toward human safety testing, this trial would help establish an understanding of how the vaccine performs which is critical, according to UQ professor Trent Munro.

Viroclinics spokesperson Dr Koert Stittelaar said the urgency of the pandemic indicated the need for research organisations to work together.

Image: UQ

“As a service organisation, we have committed to realigning our resources, equipment and materials to initiatives to test promising vaccines, anti-virals and immune modulators in the battle against COVID-19 and we have developed a number of preclinical models of COVID-19 infection," Dr Stittelaar said.

UQ is also partnering with Cytiva, formerly known as GE Healthcare Life Sciences, which will develop the material for clinical trials and is preparing scale-up equipment for future mass production.

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Contact the author: elyons@networkten.com.au