Australian scientists are thrilled at an early vaccine trial which has stimulated a high antibody response to coronavirus – higher than in recovered patients.
The crucial breakthrough in the global race to produce a vaccine was achieved in pre-clinical tests at the University of Queensland.
UQ project co-leader Professor Paul Young said the results were an excellent indication that the vaccine worked as expected.
He said researchers were impressed with the antibody response which “was even better than those observed in samples from COVID-19 recovered patients”.
“This is what we were hoping for, and it’s a great relief for the team given the tremendous faith placed in our technology by CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation), federal and Queensland governments and our philanthropic partners,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
These early results also mean the vaccine, which induced a “potent protective response” was well on track.
The final results from pre-clinical tests are hoped to be ready by early June before clinical trials can start.
The milestone is considered significant because when SARS vaccines were originally being tested on animals in the lab, they showed similar immune responses which ultimately lead to protection from infection.
That’s according to Professor Kanta Subbarao of the Doherty Institute, who is working with UQ and tested the vaccine samples in the laboratory.
About 70 coronavirus vaccine developments are being undertaken around the world, including Australia where testing is underway or about to start.
On Monday, a Perth-based Linear Clinical Research announced it needed healthy adult volunteers for human trials of a Chinese-developed vaccine.
UQ was tasked by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation to use its vaccine technology to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
It has collaborated with the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity to demonstrate and understand its immune response.
Dutch company Viroclinics Xplore is also collaborating on the vaccine tests.
Program Director Professor Trent Munro said every day was critical in the race to bring this science forward.
While there were no guarantees of success, he said the support received to date was letting the team move at an unprecedented speed.
“When you start combining clinical readiness with scale-up manufacturing, the costs quickly escalate and our primary goal here was to try and break down the financial constraints as much as we could,” Professor Munro said.