#FirstDose: University of Queensland begins human trials of COVID-19 vaccine

UQ researchers (from left) Trent Munro, Paul Young and Keith Chappell have fast-tracked the vaccine’s development.(Image: University of Queensland)

University of Queensland has begun its first phase of human trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccination. A total of 120 health volunteers from Queensland have signed up for the trial, and recieved the first dose of the vaccine at the Brisbane clinic of phase 1 clinical trials specialist, Nucleus Network.

“The next critical phase for The University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine is underway – with the research effort moving out of the lab and into human trials”, UQ has said in its announcement.

Preliminary results of the trial are expected to be released by the end of September. The Phase 1 trial will involve about 120 volunteers aged between 18 and 55, with a proportion of participants to receive a placebo.

UQ vaccine project co-leader Professor Paul Young said the first human trial was about evaluating the safety of the vaccine and the immune response it generates in a group of healthy volunteers.

Image: Supplied/University of Queensland

“The green light to move into this first phase of human trials follows extensive pre-clinical testing that started when we first selected our lead vaccine candidate on 14 February,” Professor Young said.

“This testing showed that the vaccine was effective in inducing antibodies that were able to neutralise the virus. Further studies have shown that the vaccine was safe to give to people.”

UQ was tasked by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a rapid response vaccine against the novel coronavirus in January, supported by an initial investment of up to US$4.5 million. 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was an “exciting day” for Queensland.

In a statement, Innovation Minister Kate Jones described the research to find a vaccine as “world leading”.

“Our vaccine — made in Queensland by Queenslanders, could save millions of lives throughout the world.”

The clinical batch of vaccine for use in the trial was manufactured in a close partnership between UQ and researchers at CSIRO’s advanced biologics production facility in Melbourne, with technical assistance from Australian biotech company CSL, Brisbane based Patheon and the global biotech company Cytiva (formerly GE Life Sciences).

Project director Professor Trent Munro said the team had known from the beginning that they would need to advance the manufacturing component of the development pipeline to run alongside clinical trials.

The Queensland Government has provided $10 million Advance Queensland funding for the vaccine project, the Federal Government has contributed $5 million and more than $10 million has been provided by philanthropic and other donors.