Australia has abandoned the development of homegrown Covid-19 vaccine candidate after numerous volunteers in the early-stage trials developed antibodies for HIV, as per media reports.
The Australian government had signed an agreement with Australian biotech company CSL Limited to supply 51m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland.
The University of Queensland and CSL Limited said that their Covid-19 vaccine candidate would not progress to phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials as researchers found the vaccine generated antibodies towards the “molecular clamp”, which led to a false positive result when participants were tested for HIV. A molecular clamp is a chain between proteins that stabilises the shape of proteins in experimental vaccines.
While the phase 1 study (involving 216 trial participants) found that the vaccine producing a strong immune response against Covid-19 and halted replication, some patients demonstrated antibodies towards fragments of an HIV protein (gp41). The researchers consulted the Australian Government. Following which they decided to not move ahead with phase 2 and 3 clinical trials.
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said public support of the vaccine and belief in its safety was essential. The news that the vaccine could trigger a HIV immune response may deter some people, even though it is a harmless response.
“The risk to vaccine confidence was the principal issue here, and we made the decision unanimously as a national security committee, the scientific advice was unanimous, the agreement with CSL not to proceed was mutual,” Hunt said.
The Australian government has invested more than A$3.3bn across the four vaccine agreements. This UQ/CSL vaccine was one of four candidates that Australia had committed to buy. The government is confident that the three other agreements (with AstraZeneca/University of Oxford, Novavax and Pfizer/BioNTech) will ensure that vaccination drives goes as per plan and schedule.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 999/year is the best way you can support our efforts.