Hackers a threat to vaccine developers
The head of CSIRO's biosecurity laboratory says the world should be concerned about hacks on coronavirus vaccine research.
Prof Trevor Drew insisted his elite facility in Geelong, Victoria, was safe from cyber attacks.
However, he warned that vaccine manufacturers now may be the main targets.
When asked about reports of Chinese, Russian and Iranian cyber attacks on science institutions, Prof Drew said: "As a general comment I think everyone should have concerns but the nice thing about CSIRO is that we have a very good computer wing, computer arm Data61 that look after all of our cyber security so I have no overt concerns.
"There's not a lot that we could tell them other than perhaps some of the results we're getting but that would be it, we don't have any of the details of how these vaccines were manufactured.
"I would have thought that where they're going to, the vaccine developers would be the target
We're not developers so I doubt that we would be a target but even so as I said we're obviously alert to these issues."
Prof Drew's comments were made in a wide-ranging interview this week before his links with PLA's Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Dr Tu Changchun, were made public by News Corp.
News Corp did not suggest that Prof Drew behaved in any way unethically in his dealings with Dr Tu when they worked together in China.
The CSIRO in Geelong was chosen to test two of the most promising potential coronavirus vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and another from Inovio Pharmaceuticals from the United States.
The laboratory was chosen by the Centre for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The CSIRO had done a dummy run of who it would prepare for a pandemic in October last year, making it best placed to fast track vaccine research.
Ferrets are being injected with the Oxford vaccine, which was already substantially developed for other viruses before COVID-19 hit.
They were then being given a dose of COVID-19 to monitor whether it was able to produce enough antibodies to provide protection.
Scientists were working 20 hours a day to speed up the results, which were expected by the end of June.
A team of 80 people, including engineers and maintenance staff, were working on the virus in shifts.
Prof Drew said he was unable to disclose results because of his agreement with CEPI, but spoke about the science behind the Oxford University vaccine.
"It's a very effective and modern type of vaccine but the great thing about it is as well as being built with 21st century science, there are vaccines of that type already being used so its proof of principle is already there," he said.
"It's gone a long way down the safety route already."
The Inovio Pharmaceuticals virus used DNA to attack COVID-19.
Prof Drew said that there was a chance that any COVID-19 vaccine may need to be inhaled rather than injected so it could better target the lungs.
Any new vaccine was also likely to require refrigerators when distributed, making it more difficult to roll out in developing countries.
Originally published as Hackers a threat to vaccine developers