Lack of funding hindering SA virus vaccine

Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said his team began testing their coronvirus vaccine in January.
Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said his team began testing their coronvirus vaccine in January.

A lack of resources and funding is hindering progress on a potential breakthrough South Australian-based COVID-19 vaccine, researchers say.

SA company Vaxine is working with Flinders University and Australian researchers to test a vaccine that is designed to prevent the virus infecting human cells.

Director Nikolai Petrovsky said his team had made considerable progress building on its experience developing vaccines for other diseases.

But he said the lack of resources remained a "constraint" on their work.

"Currently we are doing this under our own steam with no external support," he said.

"Obviously, we could go a lot faster if we had Commonwealth support for the program."

Prof Petrovsky said his team began testing in January, using its previous experience in developing a SARS coronavirus vaccine.

"We used computer models of the spike protein and its human receptor, ACE2, to identify how the virus was infecting human cells, and then were able to design a vaccine to block this process," he said.

"We did human trials of two bird flu vaccines which were successful and recently we've applied the same approach to the development of a vaccine against COVID-19."

The vaccine was shipped to the United States for animal testing and results are expected in six to eight weeks.

From there, Prof Petrovsky hopes to go into clinical trials, meaning a result could be "as early as two to three months from now".

It's not the only COVID-19 vaccine under development, though he says many others as "experimental".

"The difference with our platform is that it's been into humans across many pandemic types of virus and has been proved to be safe and effective," Prof Petrovsky said.

Though he cautions the success of the coronavirus vaccine would depend on the results of the human trials.

In his previous work, Prof Petrovsky was part of the team that developed a swine flu vaccine in 2009 that went into clinical trials within three months of the discovery of the virus.

Australian Associated Press