CSIRO starts trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidates

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CSIRO says it has commenced the first stage of testing potential vaccines against COVID-19. It said the testing, expected to take three months, is underway at its high-containment biosecurity facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong.  

CSIRO said it partnered with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in early 2019.

CEPI is a Norway-based partnership between public, private, philanthropic and non-government organisations that was launched at Davos in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.

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

According to CSIRO chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall, “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 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.”

CSIRO said it is testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy, but also evaluating the best way to give the vaccine for better protection, including an intra-muscular injection and innovative approaches like a nasal spray. 

Professor Trevor Drew OBE is director of AAHL and leading CSIRO’s COVID-19 virus and vaccine work.  

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

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

Dr Marshall continued, “Tackling disease and supporting better health outcomes takes a one-health approach."

“In 2016 CSIRO created the Health and Biosecurity research group who work with our scientists at AAHL to tackle our national and international health and biosecurity challenges together, so we can better protect the health of our people, environment, agriculture and industries and our way of life.

“This, combined with our data science and manufacturing capability in our biological production facility, means we were well prepared to help Australia in One Health with disease identification, prevention and management, to deliver the real world solutions that our nation expects from science.”