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Australian and Norwegian scientists team up to produce COVID-19 vaccine

Photo: Experts clamping onto coronavirus vaccine
Scientists in Australia and Norway are hoping a new biotechnology could help get a COVID-19 vaccine onto the streets by the end of 2021.

Australian and Norwegian researchers are teaming up to try and mass produce a coronavirus vaccine by the end of next year.

It's thanks to a new anti-viral technology developed at the University of Queensland which has already shown positive results.

An Oslo-based vaccine research foundation and an Australian biotech company are now chipping in to help build stockpiles of the potential vaccine.

If scientists are successful, the biotech company CSL could start making one hundred million doses of the vaccine in Melbourne next year.
The next stage of tests will begin in July, before moving to trialling it on up to 1000 people in December.

If successful a vaccine could be rolled out in 12 to 18 months from June.

University of Queensland vice-chancellor Peter Hoj said on Friday the partnership was a phenomenal milestone.

"(Researchers) have worked tirelessly since January on this project, which will benefit Australians and the world," he said.

But before that, Australian scientists will have to conduct tests with a new "molecular clamp" technology from the University of Queensland.

It clamps onto normally unstable proteins on the virus - the same proteins used by vaccines to produce an immune response.

Normally, without being able to lock the proteins in place, scientists are unable to attack the virus.

Preclinical trials have already shown a vaccine developed at the University of Queensland could neutralise COVID-19, with researchers being able to use the clamp technology to hold the vaccine together.

Jane Halton, chair of the Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said this was an important step in the fight against coronavirus.

She said scientists were now arranging a diverse group of test candidates to ensure as many "shots on goal" as possible.

"We've got a global problem and we need to find ways of resolving it as soon as we can," Ms Halton told reporters via teleconference on Friday.

Ms Halton, who also sits on the board of Australia's coronavirus coordination body, said CEPI was developing a plan to determine how the vaccine was distributed worldwide.

"We are absolutely focused on developing a vaccine that is globally accessible," she said.

CSL chief executive Paul Perreault said research was risky at the best of times and warned it was possible the vaccine may not be successful.

"There remains a number of critical milestones ahead before we can declare victory," he said.

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