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UQ vaccine seems to work on hamsters, now to prove it will protect humans

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Pre-clinical testing of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by The University of Queensland has not disappointed researchers.

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Project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell relayed early data from animal trials to the International Society for Vaccines, indicating it could enhance the body’s immune response. Human clinical trials are ongoing and so far there have been no safety concerns.

“The neutralising 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,” Chappell said.

“In hamster models, the vaccine combined with the Seqirus MF59® adjuvant, provided protection against virus replication, and reduced lung inflammation following exposure to the virus.

“It also induces a strong T-cell response and showed strong results when it came to data relating to manufacturability.”

Chappell said the research team was working with the former government-owned health giant CSL to plan for mass production “to manufacture the millions of doses required to protect the Australian public”.

“The Phase 1 study being conducted in Queensland is progressing well and assuming the study demonstrates adequate safety and immune responses, data should be available in time for CSL to commence the required large-scale efficacy study before the end of the year,” he said.

The UQ team are preparing to submit their early findings to a research journal for peer review.

Meanwhile, an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and drug maker AstraZeneca could be put before regulators this year if scientists are able to gather enough data, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group says.

The Australian government has signed a deal with AstraZeneca to secure early access to the vaccine should trials prove safe and effective, the plan being that every Australian receives it for free.

The Oxford vaccine showed early promise in the first human trial when it produced an immune response, underlining its position as one of the leading candidates in the race to produce a vaccine against a disease that has crippled the global economy.

“It is just possible that if the cases accrue rapidly in the clinical trials, that we could have that data before regulators this year, and then there would be a process that they go through in order to make a full assessment of the data,” Andrew Pollard told BBC Radio on Tuesday.

The trial hit the headlines earlier this week when the Financial Times reported that the Trump administration was considering fast-tracking the vaccine for use in the United States ahead of the November 3 elections.

One option being explored would involve the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarding “emergency use authorisation” in October to the potential vaccine, the FT said.

“The process of going through emergency use authorisation in an emergency is well established, but it still involves having carefully conducted data… and evidence that it actually works,” Pollard said.

-With AAP

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