Australian scientists start testing potential COVID-19 vaccines

Melbourne: Scientists in Australia said on Thursday they have begun testing two potential vaccines for COVID-19 in “milestone” lab trials.

The scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said they are testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy.

They are also evaluating the best way to give the vaccine for better protection, including an intra-muscular injection and innovative approaches like a nasal spray.

“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.

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“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.

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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.

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