Melbourne: Scientists in Australia, on Thursday, said that they have begun testing two potential vaccines for COVID 19 in “milestone” lab trials as part of a global race to halt the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency,
said they are testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy.
They are also evaluating the best way to administer the
vaccine for better protection, including an intra-muscular injection and
innovative approaches like a nasal spray for the virus which has so far
infected more than 930,000 people and killed over 46,000 globally.
“We have been studying SARS CoV-2 since January and
getting ready to test the first vaccine candidates as soon as they are
available,” Professor Trevor Drew, Director of Australian Animal Health
Laboratory (AAHL) said in a statement.
“We are carefully balancing operating at speed with
the critical need for safety in response to this global public health
emergency,” said Drew, who is leading CSIRO’s COVID-19 virus and vaccine work.
The testing, expected to take three months, is underway
at CSIRO’s high-containment biosecurity facility at AAHL, the researchers said.
To prepare for disease outbreaks, last year CSIRO partnered with the Coalition
for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global group that aims 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, they said.
In consultation with the World Health Organisation, CEPI
has identified vaccine candidates from the University of Oxford in the UK and
Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the US to undergo the first pre-clinical trials at CSIRO,
with further candidates likely to follow.
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,
Larry Marshall said in a statement.
“Tackling disease and supporting better health
outcomes takes a one-health approach,” Marshall said.
CSIRO was the first research organisation outside of
China to generate sufficient stock of the virus to enable pre-clinical studies
and research on COVID-19.
The agency successfully established a biological model in
February to confirm ferrets react to SARS-CoV-2
— the virus that causes COVID-19.
Researchers have quickly progressed to studying the course of infection in the animals — a crucial step in understanding if a vaccine will work.