The vaccines, made by Oxford University and US company Inovio Pharmaceutical, have been cleared for animal testing by the World Health Organization.
Australia’s national science agency will assess if the vaccines work, and if they would be safe for humans. The first human trial took place in the US last month, but skipped a stage of animal testing. There are several other vaccine developments occurring around the world at the moment at extraordinary speed. But Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) says its tests will be the first comprehensive pre-clinical trials of the vaccines to use an animal model.Researchers said the speed and level of global co-operation that led to this stage had been unprecedented.
How will it work?
In the past few days, the CSIRO team has inserted vaccine samples into ferrets which have been proven to contract the coronavirus in the same way humans do. The CSIRO is testing two options selected by a global consortium overseeing most of this research, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. One option, developed by the University of Oxford, is a vector vaccine. It uses a “defective” virus to introduce the proteins of the coronavirus to the immune system and induce a response. The other vaccine – from Inovio – is described as “rather different but nonetheless exciting”. It is designed to encode certain proteins of the coronavirus to the immune system, prompting the body’s cells to generate those proteins before the immune system reacts to them.
When will we get the vaccine?
The first results from the animal tests could be revealed as early as June, the scientists said. If successful, the vaccines could then be moved into clinical trials that could be conducted at labs elsewhere.