Australia’s COVID-19 DNA vaccine advances to human trial

24 September 2020

Written by: Achol Arok

The University of Sydney become frontrunners in Australia's race for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The University of Sydney’s novel COVID-19 DNA vaccine is set to advance to human trials. The vaccine developed in collaboration with BioNet and Technovalia is set to enter an extended Phase 1 Human Trial in Australia.

The gene-based vaccine is a new design and will use DNA sequences from the virus to trigger an immune response strong enough to protect against further virus infections. While previous DNA vaccines relied on standard needle delivery, the University of Sydney aims to administer this vaccine using a needle-free system.

Associate Professor Nicholas Wood, the lead investigator, says this new way of delivery would boost the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“The delivery is via a needle-free device which penetrates the skin with a jet spray. This is designed to make sure the DNA vaccine gets inside the cells to encourage good uptake by the immune system,” he said.

Funded by a $3 million grant provided by the Australian Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Coronavirus Research Response, this research lead by Professor Wood will be the first DNA-based COVID vaccine trial in Australia. The University of Sydney hopes to recruit 150 volunteers for its first clinical trial.

The University of Sydney makes themselves a frontrunner in Australia’s race for a COVID-19 vaccine. It will become one of the several candidate DNA vaccines in development, some of which are currently being clinically tested in the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Co-Investigator Professor Helen Marshall from the Robinson Research Institute says this phase of trials will give Australians the opportunity to be involved in a vaccine trial that looks promising.

“Through strong partnerships between Government, academia and industry we are well placed to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the Australian people, should it prove to be effective,” she said.

Greg Hunt Health Minister believes that finding a vaccine is crucial in the effort to contain COVID-19 cases, not only in Australia but globally.

“The rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a critical Australian government priority,” he said.

“Subject to further work, the resulting vaccines could eventually be deployed in Australia and around the world.”

While the Federal Government have funded over $6 million into locally developed COVID-19 vaccines, they have also entered a new global agreement that would potentially grant them access to some of the world’s leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

The Federal Government has invested an initial $123.2 million into the global vaccines facility known as COVAX, that will place them first in line to purchase vaccines when they become available.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne believes that participating in COVAX would be acting in Australia’s best economic interest.

“Access to vaccines will play a critical role in the economic recovery of our region from this pandemic,” she said.

“Now more than ever, we must come together as a global community to ensure that our response leaves no one behind. The facility is a major endeavour, but together we can work to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.”


Photo: Biomedical engineer develops blood-filtering treatment by ThisisEngineering RAEng available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.