The abandoned  University of Queensland COVID-19 vaccine showed promise for providing protection across coronavirus variants, new research has found.
The abandoned University of Queensland COVID-19 vaccine showed promise for providing protection across coronavirus variants, new research has found.

Axed Aussie vaccine was hugely effective

New data on the abandoned University of Queensland COVID-19 vaccine shows it had promise to provide protection across virus variants.

It comes as Queensland recorded zero new cases in the past 48 hours, from local or other sources.

Results from the only human study of the vaccine candidate also found it was safe and produced a strong immune response in 99 per cent of participants who received two doses.

Project co-leader Keith Chappell said that in 75 per cent of people who received two shots of the vaccine, based on UQ's unique molecular clamp technology, the immune response was "above the average" seen in recovered patients.

"In 38 per cent, it was more than twice the average for recovered patients," Associate Professor Chappell said.

Project co-leader of the University of Queensland vaccine project, Associate Professor Keith Chappell.
Project co-leader of the University of Queensland vaccine project, Associate Professor Keith Chappell.

Results from the early human trial in 120 volunteers were published today in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The UQ researchers said antibody responses suggested the vaccine was "likely to confer protection against divergent strains".

"This finding is promising given that novel … variants will continue to emerge, which might affect the immunogenicity and efficacy of existing and candidate vaccines," they wrote in the journal article.

But plans for bigger human trials of the UQ vaccine were abandoned when people in the early human study produced false positives in some highly sensitive HIV tests.

The UQ vaccine was based on introducing a fragment of the COVID-19 virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, to the body - in this case, the spike protein found on its surface.

But on its own, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is unstable. It needs to be locked into shape to ensure the vaccine produces a robust immune response.

UQ COVID-19 vaccine project leader, Professor Trent Munro
UQ COVID-19 vaccine project leader, Professor Trent Munro

The UQ technology used a molecular "clamp", made out of two fragments of a protein found in HIV, which effectively acted as a bulldog clip to hold the spike protein together.

Project director Professor Trent Munro said that unfortunately, some vaccine volunteers "registered a low response on some highly sensitive HIV tests".

His colleague Prof Paul Young, a joint leader of the vaccine project, said the study strongly validated the molecular clamp technology as a "promising" response strategy for vaccine development.

Key players in the University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine project with human trial participants. (left to right) Prof Trent Munro, Prof Paul Young, Associate Professor Keith Chappell.
Key players in the University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine project with human trial participants. (left to right) Prof Trent Munro, Prof Paul Young, Associate Professor Keith Chappell.

The team continues to work on alternative clamp constructs to the HIV protein that could be used in future vaccines.

But it may be years before a new UQ vaccine candidate is available.

Prof Young said COVID-19 vaccines already on the market needed to remain Australia's priority.

As at 11am on April 20, Queensland recorded zero new cases in the previous 48 hours with 20 active cases in the state.

 

 

 

Originally published as Axed UQ vaccine hugely effective



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