University of Queensland tasked to develop vaccine against COVID-19

University of Queensland to fast-track attempts to develop vaccine against COVID-19

Annastacia Palaszczuk
As the total number of COVID-19 cases in Queensland reached 259 over the weekend, its Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $17 million package to accelerate attempts to develop a vaccine.

The University of Queensland (UQ) remains the only Australian organisation among six worldwide that has been working to find a vaccine against the COVID-19. 

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which has offices in Oslo, London and Washington DC, tasked UQ with contributing to the global attempts to develop a vaccine, providing financial support and coordinating other health authorities and partners to speed up the research. 

“Queensland is a world leader when it comes to research and the progress that is being made here is very encouraging,” Palaszczuk told the press over the weekend.

“The typical timeline for vaccine development has been thrown out the window, with many referring to the possibility of a vaccine in 18 months.” 

“A vaccine is required even sooner than this. We’re not cutting any corners in ensuring this vaccine is going to be safe and efficacious in humans, we will go through those clinical studies, but we should be ready to deploy as soon as that is done.”

Palaszczuk believes the further injection of funds will take roughly six months off the timeline for finding a vaccine. 

The university was boosted with $10 million from the Queensland Government, $3 million from the Federal Government and up to $3.5 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, granted that the university obtains a further $6.5 million from government and other sources. Last month, the The a2 Milk Company donated just under half a million dollars. 

On March 14, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations wrote that it would need $2 billion to support the development of a vaccine against the virus responsible for COVID-19.

Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones told media over the weekend that if the vaccine research at UQ is successful, the vaccine could be made available for emergency use for healthcare workers and vulnerable populations as early as the beginning of 2021. 

Towards the end of January, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations reached out to UQ, requesting the university to use a recently developed rapid response technology for vaccine development vaccine.

The ‘molecular clamp’ technology which was invented by UQ scientists and patented by UniQuest provides “stability to the viral protein that is the primary target for our immune defence,” Dr Keith Chappell said in a statement. Dr Chappell works as a senior research fellow at UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. 

Over the weekend, the state’s Palaszczuk used her press conference to also urge citizens  not to travel outside their immediate community except for work.

“In the coming weeks and months, I need everyone to stay near your village,” she announced.  “That means you can support things in your local village, you can shop in your local neighbourhoods, but as much as possible you need to restrict your non-essential travel and stick close to home.” 

“That’s what we do during cyclones, that’s what we do during floods. We all pitch in and help together.”

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