UQ forges ahead as Oxford vaccine stumbles
THE University of Queensland COVID-19 vaccine is on track to be available from mid next year, if it passes its safety trials, even if the AstraZeneca jab gets derailed.
The world-leading AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, being developed with Oxford University, was put on hold yesterday after a possible serious adverse reaction in one of its 50,000 participants.
But experts say it's too soon to say whether the delay will impact on whether the AstraZeneca jab will be available to roll out from early 2021.
The pharmacy giant yesterday released a statement confirming it had voluntarily paused its trial while an investigation takes place.
"This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials," an AstraZeneca spokesman said.
There are reports a participant in the UK trial had contracted transverse myelitis, an infection which can cause spinal inflammation.
Researchers are investigating whether the incident was a reaction to the jab or caused by unrelated factors, which statistically can occur in large trials.
Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Nick Coatsworth said these stoppages were normal in vaccine development and trials, sometimes lasting just a few days.
"It is equally a reminder that the vaccine development process can be fraught. At this point we don't know to say this particular vaccine is under a cloud, I don't think it is," Dr Coatsworth said.
He said he was very confident in the quality of the research of the UQ molecular clamp vaccine, as they were with AstraZeneca.
"We've invested our first advance purchase agreements with two different technologies very deliberately," he said.
In a statement to the ASX this week, CSL, the company which has been contracted by the Federal Government to produce both vaccines if they are safe and successful, said it "expects the first tranche of (UQ) doses to be available by mid-2021".
While AstraZeneca's vaccine is already in phase 3 trials, UQ's is still in phase 1, but is expected to move into phase 2/3 late this year if successful, according to CSL.
CSL scientific officer Andrew Nash said it would continue to prepare its manufacturing activities, pending further information about the pause.
"To cancel such activities at this stage would be premature, and could jeopardise timelines if the study is resumed," Mr Nash said.
Originally published as UQ forges ahead as Oxford vaccine stumbles