University of Queensland scientists have begun human trials of a world-leading COVID-19 vaccine that offers hope of a breakthrough in combating the deadly virus.
The human testing of the “molecular clamp” vaccine candidate started on Monday, following encouraging results from animal testing trials in the Netherlands.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk praised UQ for its search for a vaccine and said she was encouraged by the advances it had already made.
“We have great scientists in Queensland and they are doing a remarkable job so we wish them all the very best as they undertake these trials,” she said.
“We know UQ is at the forefront of some of the work they’re doing and they’ll be making further announcements.”
UQ COVID-19 vaccine research leader Professor Paul Young said the first human trial was about evaluating the vaccine’s safety and immune response in a group of healthy volunteers.
“The green light to move into this human trial follows extensive pre-clinical testing that the team has been conducting since first selecting the lead vaccine candidate on 14 February,” Professor Young said.
“This testing showed that the vaccine was effective in the lab in neutralising the virus and safe to give to humans.”
Professor Young said once human testing was underway, researchers expected to have preliminary results in about three months.
“We’ll hold a collective breath while we wait to see how the trial goes,” he said.
“If all goes well, we can move to the next stage in the vaccine’s development – a larger trial with a much bigger group of people from a range of ages to see if the vaccine works across the board.”
There are more than 130 vaccines in the works around the world but UQ’s work is believed to have shown great success in its pre-clinical stages.
Trial puts Queensland on the map
Innovation Minister Kate Jones said volunteers would receive the first vaccine dose on Monday morning in Herston, in a trial run by early phase clinical trial specialist Nucleus Network.
“This research is putting Queensland on the map,” Ms Jones said.
“We invested millions into this research because we know a vaccine is crucial to defeating COVID-19.
“But the success of our research has the eyes of the world on Queensland.
She said Queensland joined a small group of vaccine developers around the world that are moving out of the lab and into human trials.
“Queensland boasts one of the most promising vaccine candidates on the planet,” she said.
“We asked Queenslanders to roll up their sleeves to save lives – and they’ve answered the call in droves.
“We needed up to 120 volunteers for the first stage. More than 4000 people have put up their hands to volunteer.”
The clinical batch of vaccine for use in the trial was manufactured in a close partnership between UQ and CSIRO with technical assistance by Australian biotech company CSL, Brisbane’s Thermo Fisher and Swedish company Cytiva.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations asked the University of Queensland to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus in January, supported by an initial investment of up to $10 million.
UQ and CEPI entered into a partnership in June, with CSL to take the rapid response ‘molecular clamp’ enabled vaccine through clinical development and manufacture, if it proves successful.