A statement from the agency said it had been asked to join the effort by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global group that looks to develop vaccines to prevent epidemics.
CSIRO scientists will carry out their work at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, the only physical containment level 4 lab in the country and one of five in the world.
News of the coronavirus first broke on 31 December last year, when the World Health Organisation was alerted to the presence of a number of cases which showed pneumonia-like symptoms in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in China's Hubei Province.
On Friday, the WHO declared a global health emergency, which calls for a co-ordinated international response to prevent the spread of the virus.
The CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong. Supplied
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said: "CSIRO has been on the front line of biosecurity for 100 years. From hosting Australia’s most secure biosecurity lab, to developing the world’s first effective flu treatment and a vaccine for the Hendra virus, to more recent research on pathogens like SARS, CSIRO has a long history in keeping Australians safe from the threat of disease.
“CSIRO is uniquely placed to combine our deep expertise in animal and human health, with capability in genetics, data and machine learning, to help fight this virus – but collaboration is key.
“As the national science agency, we can help bring together every branch of science and experts from across the system to tackle this major global health challenge.”
The CSIRO team will focus on finding out how long the virus takes to develop and replicate, how it affects the respiratory system and how transmission occurs.
“Infectious diseases like the new coronavirus are complex and pose a major challenge to human health,” said Dr Rob Grenfell, director of Health and Biosecurity at CSIRO.
“Through this project we will use our globally unique scientific capability to answer key questions about how the coronavirus behaves.”
Once the CSIRO has sufficient information, it plans to start testing potential vaccines which are being developed by a CEPI-led consortium that includes the University of Queensland and CSIRO.
CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett said: "The rapid global spread and unique epidemiological characteristics of the novel coronavirus is deeply concerning.
"Partnering with CSIRO, CEPI aims to improve our understanding of this virus and its epidemiological characteristics, which are key components in expediting development of the vaccines the world needs.”