Update on the Australian Covid-19 Vaccine

University of Queensland researchers have announced passing a significant hurdle in their efforts to develop a vaccine against Covid-19. The team reported the results of its animal trials to the International Society for Vaccines on Monday.

According to project co-leader A/Prof Keith Chappell, “The neutralizing immune response created by our molecular clamp vaccine in animal models was better than the average level of antibodies found in patients who have recovered from COVID-19.”

Signs also reportedly bode well for the vaccine’s large-scale manufacturability. In this endeavour, UQ has partnered with Commonwealth Serum Laboratories ($CSL), one of the ASX’s largest companies by market capitalisation.

Following the animal trials, Phase 1 human trials are already underway at UQ. Assuming a positive outcome, the team expects that CSL will be able to get underway with the large-scale vaccine efficacy studies by the end of the year.

This portion of vaccine development, known as Phase 3 studies, are normally carried out over three to six months. Thus, the timeline on the UQ vaccine at present is for the mid- to latter part of 2021.

This is certainly not as rapid as Putin’s “Sputnik V” vaccine, which was licensed earlier this month. Of course, an extended development phase is the price we pay for having a vaccine that is, you know, actually fully tested.

On a more serious note, one of the most advanced vaccine candidates is the ChAdOx vaccine being developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The Oxford-AstraZeneca team reported on 20 July that it had commenced Phase 3 trials with volunteers in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. They have also said that with a bit of luck, their vaccine could be tested and approved this year.

Australia will be licensed to manufacture the Oxford vaccine if trials are successful, and the Federal Government is already scoping out biotech companies’ ability to do so on a mass scale. This shapes as the fastest possible timeline, allowing for availability in the first quarter of 2021.