Urgent call for older Queenslanders to volunteer for COVID-19 study

27 Aug 2020

A call to arms has gone out to Queenslanders aged 56 and over to help advance The University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine project.

UQ vaccine project co-leader Professor Paul Young said a Phase 1 human trial in Brisbane would be expanded to help gauge the vaccine’s safety among an older demographic.

“As most people are now aware, COVID-19 appears to have a higher degree of disease severity in older individuals,” he said.

“We’re looking to ensure that this vaccine candidate is safe for use in older people, and we’re hoping the people of Queensland can really get behind us and sign up.

“By conducting this expanded safety study, we’ll be able to gather key data to support the large-scale efficacy trials that our partners at CSL are planning to run in the near future.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles is supporting the call for more volunteers.

“Do it for Queensland,” he said.

“This pandemic is the biggest challenge we’ve ever had to face.

“By taking part in these clinical trials, you could play a very real role in saving lives.”

The extended Phase 1 trial is being conducted at Nucleus Network’s Brisbane clinic, and involves an additional 96 participants.

Nucleus Network’s Principal Investigator Associate Professor Paul Griffin said Queenslanders aged 56 and over were now being asked to assist with the study.

“We will be recruiting 48 volunteers between 56-65 years of age and another 48 volunteers aged 66 years and over.

“By having a focused study on this age group we can generate more robust data that will help determine the safety and effectiveness of the potential vaccine.

“We’d encourage anyone in this age bracket who would like to make a difference in this challenging time to get in touch and we can assess their suitability for this important trial.

“Participants are generally required to be in good health, and any existing medical conditions need to have been stable for the last few months.”

Anyone who would like to participate can register with Nucleus Network via nucleusnetwork.com/UQ or by calling 1800 243 733.

Project director Professor Trent Munro said early safety results from the human trials had been positive, indicating the vaccine was safe generally well tolerated in healthy volunteers between 18 and 55.

“We’re moving as quickly as is safely possible, and it’s now time for Queenslanders to step up again.”

Fellow project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell told older Queenslanders – if there ever was a time to volunteer – it was now.

“If you’ve ever wanted to get involved and make a difference, and you fit the requirements for this trial, definitely consider stepping up to help us beat COVID-19,” he said.

“We’re working on a very compressed timeline – aiming to start this study in just a couple of weeks.”

CEPI has provided $15.16m to develop UQ’s molecular clamp vaccine platform that enables rapid vaccine design and production.

UQ and CEPI entered into a partnership in June with Australian biotech company CSL to take the rapid response ‘molecular clamp’ enabled vaccine candidate through clinical development and manufacture, if it proves successful.

The Queensland Government has provided $10 million Advance Queensland funding for the vaccine project, the Federal Government has contributed $5 million and more than $10 million has been provided by philanthropic and other donors.

The COVID-19 Vaccine team is being led by Professor Paul Young and Dr Keith Chappell from UQ's School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences, and Professor Trent Munro from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.