27 May 2020

Australian COVID-19 vaccine ‘could be available within months’

COVID-19 Research

The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19’s timeline is a particularly stressful factor of the pandemic.

But in an interview with the Healthed podcast Going Viral, endocrinologist and vaccine developer, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, proposed that a COVID-19 vaccine could be delivered by the end of the year.

Professor Petrovsky offers a counterargument to the pessimistic stance on vaccine development.

After spending six years developing a SARS vaccine, only to have funding diverted just as they were ready to go to a human clinical trial, Professor Petrovsky and his team were well-placed to readapt their research to SARS-CoV-2.

“They’re very similar viruses, the target in both viruses is the spike protein, which has about 80% similarity between the two viruses,” Professor Petrovsky said.

“We just readapted that around the genetic sequence for the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2, and then have rapidly rolled out the vaccine.”

So far, the vaccine has only been tested in mice and monkeys, but Professor Petrovsky said the results looked promising.

And human trials of the vaccine are expected to start next month.

“The vaccine can be delivered, certainly towards the end of the year or early next year,” Professor Petrovsky said.

Addressing concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine, Professor Petrovsky warns against confusing SARS-CoV-2 with influenza.

“Influenza has a high mutation rate, meaning there are multiple different influenzas out there,” he said.

“Every year different strains need to be swapped in and out of the vaccine and even then, it’s impossible to cover them all.”

In contrast SARS-CoV-2 has a relatively low mutation rate.

“SARS 2 is a much simpler problem – it’s a single virus and we believe we can get 85-90% individual level protection based on the animal studies of the vaccine,” Professor Petrovsky said.

And with SARS-CoV-2 here to stay, Professor Petrovsky said a vaccine would be the only way to prevent the virus spreading in places that do not have it under control.

You can listen to the full interview here.

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