2 April 2020
CSIRO has started pre-clinical trials of 2 potential COVID-19 vaccines in Geelong, Victoria. The vaccines were developed by Oxford University and a US company, Inovio Pharmaceuticals.
The vaccines will be tested on ferrets, both for effectiveness, and also to evaluate the best method of giving the vaccine – whether that be an intra-muscular injection, a nasal spray or other method. The pre-clinical trials are expected to take 3 months.
The CSIRO team was the first in the world to show that ferrets are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Ferrets are used for research into influenza and other respiratory infections because their lung physiology is similar to that of humans.
The work is the result of a partnership with CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), a global group that aims to derail epidemics by speeding up development of vaccines.
CSIRO was the first research organisation outside of China to grow sufficient quantities of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for research. Researchers used the virus strain isolated by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, which was the first strain isolated outside of China.