Thursday, 02 April 2020 08:20

CSIRO scientists start testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 Featured

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The CSIRO is testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy. The CSIRO is testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy. Courtesy CSIRO

Australia's national science agency, the CSIRO, says it has begun the first stage of testing potential vaccines for COVID-19, with the testing process expected to take three months.

The organisation said work was progressing at its high-containment biosecurity facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory which is situated in Geelong, about 100km from Melbourne.

A statekent from the CSIRO said had been engaged by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness in January to start working on the vaccine. The CSIRO and CEPI became partners last year.

The CEPI, working in co-ordination with the World Health Organisation, has identified vaccine candidates from the University of Oxford in the UK and Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the US to be the first to undergo pre=clinical trials at the CSIRO's Geelong facility.

The CSIRO said this work was part of its growing involvement in trying to find a means to tackle COVID-19; it included scaling up other likely vaccine candidates at a production facility in Melbourne.

csiro vaccine

Scientists starting to test vaccines for COVID-19 at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Courtesy CSIRO

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “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 researchers are working around-the-clock to combat this disease which is affecting so many. Whether it’s at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory or at our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility, we will keep working until this viral enemy is defeated.”.

Apart from the testing of the vaccines for their effectiveness, the CSIRO said it was also looking at the best way of administering them, whether through an intra-muscular injection or as a nasal spray.

AAHL director Professor Trevor Drew, who is leading CSIRO’s COVID-19 virus and vaccine work, said: “We have been studying SARS CoV-2 since January and getting ready to test the first vaccine candidates as soon as they are available.

"We are carefully balancing operating at speed with the critical need for safety in response to this global public health emergency.”

The AAHL is the only high biocontainment facility in the southern hemisphere and its scientists work with highly dangerous and exotic pathogens, including diseases that transfer from animals to people.

Dr Marshall added: “Tackling disease and supporting better health outcomes takes a one-health approach.

“In 2016, CSIRO created the Health and Biosecurity research group who work with our scientists at AAHL to tackle our national and international health and biosecurity challenges together, so we can better protect the health of our people, environment, agriculture and industries and our way of life.

“This, combined with our data science and manufacturing capability in our biological production facility, means we were well prepared to help Australia in One Health with disease identification, prevention and management, to deliver the real world solutions that our nation expects from science.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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