UQ researchers say developing the vaccine will be technically very challenging. (Supplied: University of Queensland)
The Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a $17 million package to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine developed in the state.
- The number of Queensland COVID-19 cases has risen to 259 after 38 more people tested positive
- The state government has announced $17 million in funding to fast-track the development of a vaccine
- The money is expected to cut the time a vaccine would be available for use by about six months
She said the funding would support the University of Queensland (UQ) as the only Australian organisation and one of six worldwide to be tasked to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
- $10 million from the Queensland Government
- $3 million from the Federal Government
- $3.5 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation
“This is now becoming a serious issue here in Queensland and a serious issue here in Australia and we’ve gotta throw everything we’ve got at it, so $10 million today is a great step forward out of a $17 million package,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Queensland is a world leader when it comes to research and the progress that is being made here is very encouraging.”
The money would allow researchers to bring a large-scale manufacture of the coronavirus vaccine forward to run parallel with clinical trials.
Professor Paul Young, who is head of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, described the work as a “radical approach”.
“We are living through remarkable times and remarkable times sometimes need radical ideas, and that is what the funding announced today is about.”
Annastacia Palaszczuk warned the media to practise social distancing at today’s press conference on coronavirus. (ABC News)
“The typical timeline for vaccine development has been thrown out the window, with many referring to the possibility of a vaccine in 18 months.
“A vaccine is required even sooner than this.
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“We’re not cutting any corners in ensuring this vaccine is going to be safe and efficacious in humans, we will go through those clinical studies, but we should be ready to deploy as soon as that is done.”
“With this approach we should carve about six months off our timeline.”
Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said if successful, there could be a coronavirus vaccine available for emergency use among healthcare workers and vulnerable populations in early 2021.
Biotechnology researcher Professor Trent Munro is a team leader on the vaccine project and welcomed the funding.
“We have to be careful in saying there are no guarantees of success. This is going to be technically very, very challenging but this funding lets us push forward in a way that we wouldn’t have dreamed possible just a few weeks ago.”
‘Stay in your village’
The funding announcement came as 38 more people tested positive to coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of Queensland’s COVID-19 cases to 259.
“We want to contain this virus as long as we can so we can develop a vaccine and ultimately save lives,” Health Minister Steven Miles said.
He said the cases were concentrated in south-east Queensland among those returning from overseas where coronavirus had already spread.
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The Premier is urging people not to travel outside their immediate community except for work.
“In the coming weeks and months, I need everyone to stay near your village.
“That means you can support things in your local village, you can shop in your local neighbourhoods, but as much as possible you need to restrict your non-essential travel and stick close to home.
“That’s what we do during cyclones, that’s what we do during floods.
“We all pitch in and help together.”
Library queues in last-minute borrowing rush
Keen readers at Indooroopilly were met with long queues and a 40-minute wait to get into the library.
“I was a bit surprised, I wasn’t expecting to see so many people here,” one woman told the ABC.
“You never see a line at a library.”
On Saturday, Brisbane City Council announced it would be closing all 33 of its libraries to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“It’s closed until the end of June, that’s a long time to not be able to come to the library.”
Some locals are making the comparison to panic-buying, which saw Australia’s supermarkets stripped bare of toilet paper and other necessities.
“I think it’s better for books… at least people are looking for knowledge, I’m happy with that.”
“Everyone just wants to read, to do something if Australia goes into lockdown.”
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