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May 9, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine at first stage of testing

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Scientists starting to test vaccines for COVID-19 at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Credit: CSIRO.

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Last year the CSIRO had partnered with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations(CEPI), a global group that aims to derail epidemics by speeding up the development of vaccines. The aim is to derail epidemics by speeding up the development of vaccines.

In January, CEPI engaged CSIRO to start working on the virus SARS CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19. In consultation withthe World Health Organisation,CEPI has identified vaccine candidates from The University of Oxford (UK) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (US) to undergothe firstpre-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,’ CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall said.

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 is testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy. Credit: CSIRO.

Testing underway

The testing is underway at CSIRO’s high-containment biosecurity facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong. The latest milestone builds on CSIRO’s growing work to tackle COVID-19, which has included scaling up other potential vaccine candidates at its biologics production facility in Melbourne.

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.

Scientists starting to test vaccines for COVID19 at CSIROs Animal Health Laboratory.

Delivery

CSIRO 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.

‘We are carefully balancing operating at speed with the critical need for safety in response to this global public health emergency,’ said Professor Trevor Drew OBE, director of AAHL and leading CSIRO’s COVID-19 virus and vaccine work.

CSIRO has a long history of developing and testing vaccines since the opening of the AAHL in 1985. It is the only high biocontainment facility in the southern hemisphere working with highly dangerous and exotic pathogens, including diseases that transfer from animals to people.

‘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,’ Dr Marshall said.

‘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.’

For more information on CSIRO’s COVID-19 work, visit: CSIRO COVID-19.


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