The vaccine is a promising shot at eradicating the virus.
The vaccine is a promising shot at eradicating the virus.

Qld to start human trials of Covid vaccine

HUMAN trials of the University of Queensland's COVID-19 candidate vaccine will begin tomorrow in a move that promises to put the state on the world stage.

Amid a frightening resurgence of the coronavirus both at home and around the world, scientists and the Palaszczuk Government are hailing the homegrown jab as the globe's most promising contender in the race to stop the killer virus in its tracks.

Volunteers will receive the first doses of UQ's innovative "molecular clamp" candidate vaccine tomorrow morning in what is a major step forward in its development.

"We asked Queenslanders to roll up their sleeves to save lives and they've answered the call in droves. We needed up to 120 volunteers for the first stage (of human trials). More than 4000 people have put up their hands to volunteer," Innovation Minister Kate Jones said yesterday.

The University of Queensland will begin human trials of a coronavirus vaccine on Monday. Picture: The University of Queensland
The University of Queensland will begin human trials of a coronavirus vaccine on Monday. Picture: The University of Queensland

"This research is putting Queensland on the map. We invested millions into this research because we know a vaccine is crucial to defeating COVID-19. But the success of our research has the eyes of the world on Queensland.

"Our vaccine - made in Queensland by Queenslanders - could save millions of lives throughout the world."

There are more than 130 vaccines in the works around the world but UQ's work is believed to have shown great success in the preclinical stage of development.

"The animal trials held in the Netherlands would have ticked all the boxes. There is no way the research team would be able to progress from animals to humans without a complete guarantee of safety and they would likely have a confidence in its effectiveness," Professor Robert Booy, head of Clinical Research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance said.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Paul Young, Dr Keith Chappell and Professor Trent Munro. Picture: Glenn Hunt / The Australian
The University of Queensland’s Professor Paul Young, Dr Keith Chappell and Professor Trent Munro. Picture: Glenn Hunt / The Australian

And renowned Professor Ian Frazer - who developed the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, and earned the Prime Minister's Prize for Science in 2008 - has hailed the Queensland research team as having the best technique and their candidate vaccine as "the most likely to come off".

The stakes are high for the UQ team amid a growing second wave of the virus in Australia. Doomsday predictions from modelling show Victoria could have as many as 1349 new cases every day by the end of July amid rising fears that the insidious virus could take a hold in Queensland.

It is believed the volunteers will be given two shots - most will get the vaccine and some will be given a placebo.

Blood tests will follow and the volunteers will be monitored for close to a year.

The research will be carried out by Australian-based clinical trial specialists Nucleus Network. If the initial trials are successful, it is believed the effectiveness of the vaccine would then be tested on thousands of people.

The Palaszczuk Government in March injected $10m to fast-track the development of the vaccine by six months, to make it available as early as early 2021.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the move to human trials. "The Australian Government is supporting the University of Queensland's innovative "molecular clamp" vaccine with a $5m investment. The University of Queensland will be the fourth phase 1 trial taking place in Australia," he said.

However, Prof Booy said any vaccine may be only partially protective. "We have to wait and see but in reality the influenza virus vaccine has been 50 years in the making and is not totally protective and we are just starting out with COVID-19," he said.

The Sunday Mail can also exclusively reveal that a world-leading technological tool developed by a Brisbane doctor is to be rolled out to help medicos around the world in the treatment of critical coronavirus patients.

Professor John Fraser, the brains behind the lifesaving tool, which involves the collection of data from intensive care units during the pandemic, said Queensland punched above its weight.

"Queensland is an incredible state for science and this incredible place brings brilliant minds together. We love to usurp other states in our work," Prof Fraser said.

The new tool will save lives in 350 hospitals in 50 countries across the world by helping deliver data-driven clinical insights that can be crossmatched to patients.

It will this week be announced by the Critical Care Consortium, which was founded by Prof Fraser.

"Not every country was well-resourced enough to lead this effort and others who could have were being smashed by the pandemic. Australia was lucky enough to be able to contain the first wave … so we're proud to do our bit to support our colleagues who have been struggling," Prof Fraser said.



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