Human testing is about to begin on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed in Queensland. Image by EPA PHOTO

Health

Virus vaccine candidate starts human tests

2020-07-14 10:33:35

A coronavirus vaccine developed by Queensland scientists could be ready for use as early as the start of next year, with clinical trials beginning on Monday.

The promising treatment is being developed and manufactured simultaneously, in what is an Australian first.

“Whilst these studies are underway, we will still be working in the background along with our partners CSL to advance the manufacturing, so we have this vaccine at scale when it’s needed,” team leader Professor Paul Young told reporters on Monday.

Professor Young’s team has been working around the clock for five months – which he says has felt like three years – to have the vaccine ready in a previously unheard of timeframe.

“To see us at this stage of clinical testing a mere five months after we selected our lead vaccine candidate to what was essentially a newly emerging global infectious disease threat is simply remarkable.”

More than 4000 Queenslanders put their hands up to participate in the trial which researchers hope will be a breakthrough in combating the virus.

The 120 volunteers chosen will receive a dosage of the vaccine twice at four-week intervals, and be monitored to determine its safety and the immune response triggered.

The human testing of the “molecular clamp” vaccine candidate follows encouraging results from animal trials conducted in the Netherlands.

There are more than 130 vaccines in the works around the world but University of Queensland’s work is believed to have shown great success in the pre-clinical stage of development.

“We know that the best way to unite and recover as an economy is to crack the vaccine and it’s wonderful that Queensland is now leading the charge globally in tackling the coronavirus vaccine,” Minister for Innovation Kate Jones said.

“We are doing this in record time.”

Prof Young says they hope the vaccine will be ready for emergency use early next year, with wide-scale distribution slated for mid to late 2021.