Australian government scientists have begun the first stages of testing for a potential vaccine against the SARS CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Australia's national science agency CSIRO said Thursday that testing at a biosecurity facility was expected to take three months.
The testing is being undertaken in cooperation with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global group that aims to help speedily develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.
CSIRO will initially test two vaccine candidates that were developed by The University of Oxford and American biotechnology company Inovio Pharmaceuticals. The candidates were identified by CEPI in consultation with the World Health Organization.
Public vaccine still 18 months away
CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall said in a statement: "Beginning vaccine candidate testing at CSIRO is a critical milestone in the fight against COVID-19, made possible by collaboration both within Australia and across the globe."
"We will keep working until this viral enemy is defeated."
Scientists will test for efficacy and the best method of administration, such as intramuscular injections and nasal sprays.
The vaccines will be tested on ferrets that have been infected with the virus. CSIRO research has confirmed that ferrets are affected by the virus.
CSIRO's director of health Rob Grenfell told Reuters news agency that any potential successful vaccine would not be ready until late next year. He said human trials on one of the vaccines could start as early as this month.
US biotechnology company Moderna Inc announced plans to begin human testing on a potential vaccine last month. Israel is already testing a vaccine prototype on rodents, Reuters reported. And thousands Australian healthcare workers are testing the efficacy of a century-old vaccine for tuberculosis.
Meanwhile, Chinese scientists say they have isolated several antibodies that may eventually be useful in developing a treating for COVID-19 or even preventing it.