Melbourne: Scientists in Australia said on Thursday 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.
“Beginning 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.