By Juliano Oliveira
The UQ (University of Queensland) will be boosted with an injection of $17 million to fast track a world-leading vaccine for coronavirus.
The funding package announced includes $10 million from the State Government; $3 million from the Federal Government; and $3.5 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that finding a fast, safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection from COVID-19 is an urgent public health priority.
“We will provide funding through our Advance Queensland strategy to fast-track a vaccine for this virus.”
“Clinical use of the vaccine is a longer-term fix. In the immediate future, Queenslanders should continue to take steps like thoroughly washing their hands, staying 1.5 metres away from others and staying home and isolated if they’re sick.
“Most importantly, listen to authorities and expert medical advice.”
Innovation Minister Kate Jones said the funding announced today would enable UQ along with research partners – the Doherty Institute and CSIRO – to undertake clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccine candidate.
Ms Jones said it would also enable the large-scale manufacture of a potential vaccine if successful.
“This vaccine could save millions of lives,” she said.
Ms Jones said this could reduce by six months the timeline for an effective vaccine, which would otherwise take 12 to 18 months at the earliest.
“If they can achieve this, it could mean there will be a vaccine available for emergency use among healthcare workers and vulnerable populations in early 2021,” she said.
The University of Queensland is the only Australian organisation and one of only six globally to be tasked by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
Dr Keith Chappell said by running the vaccine manufacture and clinical trials in parallel, it meant the moment they had success in the clinic, doses would be ready to go.
“Today’s announcement means we can act now – to make sure that we can roll out a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as we can to protect vulnerable people including the elderly and healthcare workers,” Dr Chappell said.
“The containment procedures being put in place within Australia and internationally will slow the spread of the virus. We want to use that time as effectively as possible. If we can scale up manufacture at the same time as testing safety and efficacy, we might well prevent future escalations.”