News & Trends - Biotechnology

Preliminary results from UQ’s COVID-19 vaccine trial show promise

Health Industry Hub | November 16, 2020 |
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Biotech News: Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine is so far proving “safe and effective” based on phase 1 trials. 

Various media reports have included that the vaccine is producing virus-neutralising antibodies and is especially effective in elderly trial participants, although the only trial data released so far is from animal studies. If the vaccine proves successful it will be manufactured in Australia by CSL, with the federal government committing to purchase 51 million doses.

Dr Rob Grenfell, CSIRO’s Health and Biosecurity Director, said “It is always welcome news to hear potential COVID-19 vaccines are showing early positive signs. The results of UQ’s phase one trials are yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, but initial results showing a positive antibody response are heartening.

“UQ’s vaccine candidate will soon commence phase 3 clinical trials, which will study its safety and efficacy in a large population in an area with high circulation of the virus. It’s important to remember there is still some way to go before the potential vaccine can be deemed safe and effective for the general population. We still need to await phase 3 clinical trial results and regulatory approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

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“Ultimately, we want to have as many safe and effective vaccines available, especially where different vaccines may be more suitable for different segments of the population, such as the elderly,” he commented.

Professor Adrian Esterman, Chair of Biostatistics at the University of South Australia, said “The report of a successful Phase 1 trial of the University of Queensland’s COVID-19 trial is welcome news. The new “molecular-clamp” vaccine binds together synthetic surface proteins from the SAR-COV-2 virus into a form that appears to generate a strong antibody response.

“Importantly, the antibody response also seems to work in elderly people. However, we will need to see the results of the Phase 3 trial which should be available in the latter half of next year to establish the vaccine’s efficacy, effectiveness, and safety.

Pfizer have not disclosed how many elderly people or those who are immunocompromised are in their Phase 3 trial, so there is a query about how effective or safe their messenger RNA vaccine is in these groups. However, we do know that they have recruited a cohort in the 65-85 year-old range, and should be providing effectiveness and safety data for this cohort in the next few weeks,” he remarked.

Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, a specialist in Infectious Diseases and Associate Professor of Medicine at The Australian National University, noted “The University of Queensland vaccine trial with its protein subunit vaccine appears to be progressing well. A protein subunit vaccine is a tried and tested vaccine technology, which can be effective. Adding into this mix UQ’s novel clamp technology puts them in a strong position amongst the other vaccine candidates. As Australians, we should be proud of their work so far.”

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