In a statement, the agency said this could reduce the use of animals in testing and speed up the development of drugs for human clinical trials.
The lead author on the findings, CSIRO research scientist Dr Elizabeth Pharo, said: "Clinical trials for new therapeutics can take significant time and money to establish, only for researchers to frequently discover that the treatment doesn't work in people.
"We found that our lab-grown airway cells mimic the human airway response to viruses and can be used to quickly test whether anti-viral treatments might work against a virus in a real person.
The findings have been published in the journal Viruses.
Two types of mucins secreted by lab-grown goblet cells stained for visualisation. Courtesy CSIRO
Dr Pharo added that the airway model could be used to screen up to 100 anti-viral compounds in three months and the agency was looking at ways to speed up screening using robots.
The limitation of the study is that it cannot be used to study the more complex immune responses required to evaluate vaccine candidates.
"For many respiratory diseases such as COVID-19, the airways act as the 'first responders' to inhaled pathogens," said Dr Pharo.
"When we infected our airway epithelial cultures with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, the cells had the same innate immune response as in a live person's airway, with the production of cytokines and chemokines."
She said scientists at the CSIRO's high containment facility, the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, were now using this model to characterise how the virus that causes COVID-19 infects and damages healthy donor airway cells, compared to cells from donors with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes.
"It's hoped this work will help improve our understanding of how COVID-19 may affect people with pre-existing lung conditions," Dr Pharo added.