CSIRO starts testing COVID-19 vaccines – on ferrets

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Yes, you read that right.

Australia’s science agency has begun the first stage of testing potential vaccines for coronavirus at its high-containment biosecurity facility in Geelong, Victoria.

The CSIRO is currently undertaking pre-clinical trials on ferrets at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) after confirming the animals react to SARS-CoV-2.

The testing – which is in partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global group responsible for speeding up the development of vaccines – will now compare immunised ferrets with non-immunised ferrets using two vaccine candidates from The University of Oxford and Inovio Pharmaceuticals in New York with others to follow over three months.

Professor Trevor Drew, Director of AAHL, said the team has been studying the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS CoV-2, since January – and has made the equivalent of a year’s progress in just eight weeks.

“We are carefully balancing operating at speed with the critical need for safety in response to this global public health emergency,” he said.

There are now more than 35 vaccines in various stages of development around the world, but researchers stress that the drugs in development won’t be approved and in mass production before the end of the year at the earliest – meaning social distancing and lockdowns will be the best defence against the virus for the time being.

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