Promising vaccine may head overseas

 

A promising Australian vaccine for COVID-19 now in human trials has not received any money from the Australian government.

Australian biotechnology company Vaxine has created a vaccine called COVAX-19, which is now in phase one clinical trials in humans after showing impressive results in animal models.

The company's founder Professor Nikolai Petrovsky from Flinders University said it was frustrating not to have the financial support of the Australian government.

"That is a fact, we have applied for money and we were rejected and we have applied again and have an application currently in with the Medical Research Future Fund," Prof Petrovsky said.

Professor Nikolai Petrovsky is the first researcher in Australia to trial a COVID-19 vaccine in humans. Picture: Morgan Sette
Professor Nikolai Petrovsky is the first researcher in Australia to trial a COVID-19 vaccine in humans. Picture: Morgan Sette

But the company has been approached by other countries to purchase the vaccine if successful.

"We are talking to overseas countries about that, but no, it is a frustration we have had that we haven't been contacted by Australian authorities," he said.

"All we can say is we have had a lot of interest from overseas governments and starting to get funding from overseas governments to support the development.

"We are getting inquiries from those governments about the possibility of purchasing vaccine in the future, but we haven't had either of those things happen with the Australian government. They have been very hands-off.

"We have been funded by the US government, so all our funding comes from the US government. We would love to give them our vaccine."

 

Professor Petrovsky’s company has been approached by overseas governments but not Australia. Picture: Matt Turner
Professor Petrovsky’s company has been approached by overseas governments but not Australia. Picture: Matt Turner

The United States has already pre-purchased 600 million doses of a vaccine under development by Pfizer, German company BioNtech and Chinese Fosun Pharma and will receive 100 million doses for US citizens by the end of the year in a deal costing $2.6 billion.

The Japanese Government has also invested an undisclosed amount to supply of 120 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be provided in the first half of 2021.

The US government also paid $1 billion to a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in August for 100 million doses if the vaccine is approved.

Europe has also moved to shore up supply of a vaccine, with Germany taking a 23 per cent state in German firm CureVac after President Donald Trump tried to lure its manufacturing to the US in March to ensure its vaccine, if successful, would be distributed to the US first. The European Commission pledged another $85 million to the firm, which already had support from a European vaccine consortium.

Currently there are more than 165 vaccines in development with 28 in human trials.

University of Queensland scientists have received government funds to develop a vaccine.
University of Queensland scientists have received government funds to develop a vaccine.

Australia so far has granted $5 million to the University of Queensland's "molecular clamp" vaccine, which has also entered human trials.

"It is very mysterious to me why the Australian government after seven months have only invested $5 million in vaccines, they have given money for testing other drugs but the only money that has publicly been disclosed is $5m to UQ," Prof Petrovsky said.

A spokesman for the federal Health Department said the Australian government is investing $19 million from the Medical Research Future Fund into vaccine development.

Health Minister Greg Hunt is also in talks with the British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care regarding international licensing arrangements for COVID-19 vaccines to ensure access and supply for Australia to vaccines developed in the United Kingdom.

Greg Hunt's officer also said that CSL would be enlisted to produce any vaccine onshore.

"The Australian government is confident that CSL has the capacity to produce sufficient vaccine for the entire Australian population either for Australian-based vaccines or under licence for leading international vaccines. Negotiations are well underway with both CSL and other leading international vaccine candidates," the spokesman said.

Originally published as Promising vaccine may head overseas



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