Human COVID-19 vaccine trials begin in Australia

A US biotechnology company is beginning human trials in Australia of a coronavirus vaccine, with the hopes of releasing a proven vaccine this year. Novavax has begun the first phase of the trial in which 131 volunteers in Melbourne and Brisbane will test the safety of the vaccine and look for early signs of its effectiveness.“We are in parallel making doses, making vaccine in anticipation that we’ll be able to show it’s working and be able to start deploying it by the end of this year,” said the company’s research chief Dr Gregory Glenn. Most of the shots in the pipeline aim to train the immune system to recognise the “spike” protein that studs the coronavirus’ outer surface, priming the body to react if it ever encountered the real infection.

VaccineStill other vaccine candidates are more old fashioned, made with the killed whole virus. Glenn was speaking at a virtual press conference in Melbourne from Novavax’s headquarters in Maryland. About a dozen experimental vaccines are in early stages of testing or poised to start, mostly in China, the US and Europe. Novavax adds another new kind to that list, what’s called a recombinant vaccine.The company used genetic engineering to grow what it says are harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in giant vats of insect cells in a laboratory.Scientists extracted and purified the protein, and packaged it into virus-sized nanoparticles.It’s the same process Novavax used to create a nanoparticle flu vaccine that recently passed late-stage testing.