Volunteers wanted: Qld COVID-19 vaccine trial date revealed
RECRUITMENT will begin today for a much-anticipated human trial of the University of Queensland's COVID-19 vaccine, with the first jabs into people's arms likely on July 13.
About 120 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 are needed for the Brisbane-based study which will test the safety of the candidate vaccine, dubbed S-clamp.
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The research, to be run by Australian-based clinical trial specialist company Nucleus Network, will also assess potential doses of the vaccine that would be needed in much larger human studies, expected to start within months, to gauge its effectiveness.
Participants in the Brisbane safety trial will receive two shots 28 days apart. Most will get the vaccine but about a quarter of the volunteers will be given a placebo so the two groups can be compared.
Although the study is primarily about safety, its principal investigator Paul Griffin, an infectious disease specialist, said the volunteers would undergo a series of blood tests, which would include assessments for signs of S-clamp's effectiveness. Volunteers will be followed for about a year.
Nucleus Network has trial sites in Brisbane, Melbourne and Minnesota. The company has already started a human safety trial of US biotech company Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine involving volunteers in Brisbane and Melbourne. Preliminary results of the Novavax trial are due next month.
Associate Professor Griffin said a follow-up effectiveness study of the UQ candidate vaccine in thousands of people would ideally begin shortly after preliminary results of the Brisbane trial were known if it proved to be safe.
Researchers around the world are working on hugely accelerated time frames towards producing candidate vaccines designed to protect people from becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
But Prof Griffin quashed hopes of a COVID-19 vaccine being sold from pharmacies and general practices from as early as the New Year, saying that was "not going to be the case".
He said it was possible a vaccine could be available for expedited use in geographical areas with rampant ongoing infections, or among at-risk groups, while it was undergoing late-stage human trials and before being approved by medical regulatory bodies.
"Perhaps it's idealistic, but for example, if we had a country that was undergoing lots of transmission and potentially, among health workers in that area, depending obviously on where that was and other circumstances, we could consider an accelerated use that's still under a clinical trial situation," Prof Griffin said.
"That would not only help with assessing whether it works but potentially, provide some protection if it does. That's what I think is more likely and hopefully, we'll be in a position to do that early in the New Year."
Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones described the UQ vaccine as "one of the most promising vaccine candidates on the planet".
The Queensland Government announced funding of $10 million for the project, based on UQ's molecular clamp technology, in March.
"The government is investing in this research because we know that if we can fast-track a vaccine that could save millions of lives throughout the world," Ms Jones said.
"This is also a great opportunity to grow our pharmaceuticals industry.
"We want to develop our pharmaceuticals industry in years to come to create jobs for Queenslanders."
Originally published as Volunteers wanted: Qld COVID-19 vaccine trial date revealed