Researchers in Queensland are optimistic that they may be on the way to developing a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus.
Initial results from mice injected with the potential vaccine indicate that the rodents are able to produce an immune response that may enable human patients to beat COVID-19.
According to Professor Trent Munro from the University of Queensland, samples taken from the mice show that they have developed antibodies that could potentially help save millions of lives around the world.
“The levels of those antibodies that we think we have, and the level of neutralising activity, look to even exceed the levels we find in patients who have recovered from COVID,” Munro said.
Another battery of tests to follow
But these are preliminary results and nobody is suggesting that a cure for the virus has been developed. The vaccine from the Australian team, which is part of a non-profit program called Vaccine Rapid Response, will now go to the Netherlands for a further battery of tests that are expected to take 6-8 weeks.
If these are successful the project could move into the next phase, which would involve testing on humans. This could start as early as July and initial production of the vaccine might begin in September.
However, it would not be available to the general public before at least early 2021. The technology by the researchers uses the DNA sequence of the coronavirus released by China to produce a protein that’s the same as the one on the surface of the actual virus.
That protein will be the essence of the vaccine, capable of generating immune system responses that protect people. The hope is that it will be able to provide protection against both current and future strains of the virus.
PM says vaccine is the only real answer
Recently prime minister Scott Morrison emphasised that, while many states have managed to flatten the pandemic curve, ultimately, “there needs to be a vaccine”.
“There are some promising signs in a number of these and we’ll continue to work with other countries along those lines,” he said. “A vaccine ultimately enables everybody to go back to life as it was.”
On Wednesday 29 April, Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, advised the public to be wary of claims of breakthroughs and miracle cures.
He said that while open sharing of data was important at this time, people needed to be aware that the solution was not simple and would require evidence from multiple trials before being implemented.