UQ responds to coronavirus pandemic

24 Jan 2020

The University of Queensland has been asked to develop a vaccine for the recent coronavirus outbreak at unprecedented speed, using new technology.

Professor Trent Munro
Professor Trent Munro 

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)has requested UQ to use its recently developed rapid response technology to develop a new vaccine, which could be available worldwide in as little as six months.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj AC said the current outbreak is quite concerning.

“There’s a lot that’s still unknown regarding how easily the virus is able to be transmitted between humans,” he said.

“Working with CEPI, UQ is using its vaccine technology to respond to this global health challenge.”

Head of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences Professor Paul Young said UQ has novel technology for the rapid generation of new vaccines from the knowledge of a virus’s genetic sequence information.

“The team hopes to develop a vaccine over the next six months, which may be used to help contain this outbreak,” he said.

“The vaccine would be distributed to first responders, helping to contain the virus from spreading around the world.”

Dr Keith Chappell, from UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology said the key to the speedy development of this potential vaccine is the ‘molecular clamp’ technology, invented by UQ scientists and patented by UniQuest.

“UQ’s molecular clamp technology provides stability to the viral protein that is the primary target for our immune defence,” he said.

“The technology has been designed as a platform approach to generate vaccines against a range of human and animal viruses and has shown promising results in the laboratory targeting viruses such as influenza, Ebola, Nipah and MERS coronavirus.”

Media: Dr Keith Chappell, k.chappell@uq.edu.au, +61 406 644 435; Professor Trent Munro, t.munro@uq.edu.au, +61 499 880 791; Dominic Jarvis, dominic.jarvis@uq.edu.au, +61 413 334 924.