Preclinical results and a call for volunteers: UQ COVID study

The University of Queensland

Wednesday, 02 September, 2020


Preclinical results and a call for volunteers: UQ COVID study

Preclinical testing of The University of Queensland’s (UQ) COVID-19 vaccine has produced positive indications about its potential effectiveness and manufacturability.

That’s according to project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell, reporting data from animal trials conducted by Viroclinics-DDL in the Netherlands.

“The neutralising immune response created by our molecular clamp vaccine in animal models was better than the average level of antibodies found in patients who have recovered from COVID-19,” Dr Chappell said.

“In hamster models, the vaccine combined with the Seqirus MF59 adjuvant provided protection against virus replication, and reduced lung inflammation following exposure to the virus.

“It also induces a strong T-cell response and showed strong results when it came to data relating to manufacturability.”

Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said the results, which are currently being prepared for journal submission, mark a huge milestone in the development of a vaccine.

“A vaccine is vital in putting an end to this pandemic,” Jones said. “That’s why the government has thrown its support behind UQ with $10 million in funding to fast-track this research.”

Project Director Professor Trent Munro said early results from a Phase 1 human trial have meanwhile been positive, indicating the vaccine is safe and well tolerated in healthy volunteers between 18 and 55. The vaccine trial is now being expanded to help gauge safety among an older demographic — and the university is looking for Queenslanders aged 56 and over to take part.

“As most people are now aware, COVID-19 appears to have a higher degree of disease severity in older individuals,” said project co-leader Professor Paul Young.

“We’re looking to ensure that this vaccine candidate is safe for use in older people, and we’re hoping the people of Queensland can really get behind us and sign up.

“By conducting this expanded safety study, we’ll be able to gather key data to support the large-scale efficacy trials that our partners at CSL are planning to run in the near future.”

The extended Phase 1 trial is being conducted at Nucleus Network’s Brisbane clinic, and involves an additional 96 participants. As explained by Nucleus Network’s Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Paul Griffin, “We will be recruiting 48 volunteers between 56 to 65 years of age and another 48 volunteers aged 66 years and over.

“By having a focused study on this age group, we can generate more robust data that will help determine safety and effectiveness of the potential vaccine.

“Participants are generally required to be in good health, and any existing medical conditions need to have been stable for the last few months.”

Dr Chappell told older Queenslanders that if there ever was a time to volunteer, it was now.

“If you’ve ever wanted to get involved and make a difference, and you fit the requirements for this trial, definitely consider stepping up to help us beat COVID-19,” he said.

“We’re working on a very compressed timeline — aiming to start this study in just a couple of weeks.”

Anyone who would like to participate in the trial can register with Nucleus Network via nucleusnetwork.com/UQ or by calling 1800 243 733.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/pickup

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