By mid-2021, volunteers aged between 18 and 75 years will be recruited for an accelerated clinical trial of two ‘next generation’ vaccines against Covid-19 which have been developed by researchers at the University of Melbourne.
These trials are among six chosen to receive immediate funding totalling $10.1-million from the government-backed Medical Research Future Fund’s Clinical Trials Activity Initiative.
According to Federal health minister, Greg Hunt, the vaccines offer a number of potential advantages to ‘first generation’ COVID-19 vaccines and do not require storage in the extremely low temperatures needed for the Pfizer vaccine.
Encouraging results during pre-clinical testing
Hunt said that, following encouraging results during preclinical testing, the government’s support is expediting the process to move research efforts from the lab and into human trials.
Among the other proposals to be tested are the use of germicidal ultraviolet light to reduce infection rates in aged care facilities, and 3D-printed face masks to match facial shape and prevent leaks.
Mask leak with existing P2/N95 respirators is a major problem for health care workers.
The main reason for face mask leak is the individual variability in the shape of the human face.
One clinical trial will test the effectiveness and feasibility of customised 3D-printed face guards used in conjunction with P2/N95 respirators as a way of reducing face mask leak.
Technology that could be used around the world
“This is a rapidly scalable, customised technology that could quickly and feasibly be utilised around the world,” Hunt said.
A further trial will test the effectiveness of an inexpensive and rapidly implementable germicidal ultraviolet air-treatment strategy, used in conjunction with existing infection control measures, as a means to reduce rates of respiratory viral infection in residential aged care facilities.
“Each of these extremely promising Australian innovations has the potential to dramatically shift the global battle against Covid-19 [and] will begin clinical trials from early 2021,” the minister stated.
Aussie researchers making strong contributions
“Australian researchers are making such strong contributions to global efforts to reduce the toll of Covid-19 that a number of other clinical trials have been identified as strong candidates for possible future funding.
“The clinical trials announced are based in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. They will deliver high-quality evidence that can be rapidly translated for use in this pandemic and, possibly, future pandemics,” he said.
The Government’s Medical Research Future Fund matured at $20-billion in July 2020 and is aimed at providing a long-term sustainable source of research funding.