The Australian government announced on Tuesday that it was terminating its $1 Billion deal with the University of Queensland (UQ) and global biotech company Commonwealth Serum Laboratories’ (CSL) potential COVID-19 vaccine after it was announced that it was stopping clinical trials.
This is not surprising because the vaccine completing clinical trials was part of the supply deal the Australian government had made to UQ and CSL.
CSL in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) said that the vaccine had a “strong safety profile”, meaning that research participants did not have any adverse reactions due to the vaccine.
So, what happened?
This vaccine works different from the mRNA vaccines we’ve been bombarded with in the news for the past couple of weeks. It uses a molecular clamp technology to prevent the spike protein in the coronavirus from “wobbling about”.
The vaccine failed because its molecular clamp contains a part of the HIV protein, which is safe because it cannot cause an HIV infection by itself. Researchers thought that the chances of the body recognising it was low. However, during the clinical trials, it was found out that the body does recognise the HIV protein and produces antibodies to combat it.
This lead to a variety of HIV diagnostic tests returning false positives for participants who were part of the study. This was mentioned in the same statement CSL sent to the ASX, where it reported that participants were testing positive for HIV. Had the vaccine gone on to a wider clinical trial it would have led to many people thinking they were HIV positive when they were not!
Thankfully, the researches had informed the participants already in the study of the possibility. Therefore, there hadn’t been any widespread panics yet.