Australian Institute for Bioengineering
Australian Institute for Bioengineering

QLD vaccine on fast track to save millions of lives

A CORONAVIRUS vaccine developed to save millions of lives will be fast-tracked, with a $17 million cash injection to shave six months off human trials starting.

The fast-spreading coronavirus crisis has spurred state and federal governments, with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, to fund the turbocharging of the University of Queensland's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences project, which has gained worldwide attention for a promising COVID-19 vaccine.

The funding would enable UQ, along with research partners the Doherty Institute and CSIRO, to undertake clinical trials with humans six months sooner. And if successful, it could enable the large-scale manufacture of a vaccine.

The Molecular Virology Lab at UQ. Picture: Liam Kidston
The Molecular Virology Lab at UQ. Picture: Liam Kidston

Renowned scientist Professor Ian Frazer, who developed the lifesaving human papilloma virus HPV vaccine, has thrown his support behind Queensland's extraordinary race against time.

"The need for speed without compromising safety or efficacy has researchers looking to get a successful vaccine on the market as fast as humanely possible," he said.

The funding package, announced today, includes $10 million from the State Government, $3 million from the Federal Government and $3.5 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had produced some of the world's best medical research.

"This is another example of us contributing to address important health challenges for Australians, and for the global population. Research plays a critical role in ensuring Australia maintains its world-class health system, and is particularly important as the world responds to COVID-19," he said.

Innovation Minister Kate Jones said the funding could save millions of lives.

"The research UQ is doing now is putting Queensland on the map," she said. "If we can be part of the solution, this research will help Queensland tap into a multitrillion-dollar industry.

"If they can achieve this, it could mean there will be a vaccine available for emergency use among healthcare workers and vulnerable populations in early 2021."

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk added: "This disease has already killed thousands throughout the world. We're doing everything we can to put an end to the devastation.

"Finding a fast, safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection from COVID-19 is an urgent public health priority. We will provide funding through our Advance Queensland strategy to fast-track a vaccine for this virus.

"Clinical use of the vaccine is a longer-term fix. In the immediate future, Queenslanders should continue to take steps like thoroughly washing their hands."

Paul Ramsay Foundation chief executive Professor Glyn Davis AC said it was pleased to be involved in funding the UQ research.

"We are all in this together and it is our collective responsibility to contribute as best we can to get through this difficult period," he said.

UQ is the only Australian organisation, and one of only six globally, to be tasked by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

The team of about 20 is led by Professor Paul Young and colleagues Dr Keith Chappell, Dr Dan Watterson and Professor Trent Munro.

Professor of Virology Paul Young. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Professor of Virology Paul Young. Picture: Liam Kidston.

Dr Keith Chappell said by running the vaccine manufacture and clinical trials in parallel, it meant the moment they had success in the clinic, doses would be ready to go.

"Today's announcement means we can act now - to make sure that we can roll out a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as we can to protect vulnerable people including the elderly and healthcare workers," Dr Chappell said.

"The containment procedures being put in place within Australia and internationally will slow the spread of the virus. We want to use that time as effectively as possible. If we can scale up manufacture at the same time as testing safety and efficacy, we might well prevent future escalations, " he said

Originally published as QLD vaccine on fast track to save millions of lives