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13 May 2020

The most promising vaccines for COVID-19

Researchers from the Doherty Institute have contributed to the most recent Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) report on promising vaccines for COVID-19. 

The RRIF is a forum that’s designed to facilitate rapid information sharing and collaboration within the Australian research and innovation sector on COVID-19. Convened and chaired by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Alan Finkel, its operations are led by the Australian Academy of Science, with support from a collaboration of participant organisations. 

The forum is a platform to answer pressing questions from Ministers and other key decision makers about COVID-19 as they emerge. This includes supporting the work for the Chief Medical Office, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), and the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

Their report, The most promising vaccines for COVID-19, synthesises the most promising vaccines in development nationally and globally, along with their mechanisms of action, their stage of development and their strengths and limitations.

One of the key findings of the report was that technological advancements have enabled the rapid sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. This has enabled determination of any variation in SARS-CoV-2 strains from around the world, which is essential groundwork for development of a globally effective vaccine. 

Another challenge for scientists developing vaccines is the possibility that the virus will change its genetic make-up (mutate) over time. If the mutations significantly change the spike protein structure originally used to develop the vaccine, the neutralising antibodies that provided immunity will no longer be effective against the mutate protein structure, which has been an obstacle in developing a vaccine for HIV. 

The contributing authors on this report were Professor Peter Doherty, AC FAA FRS FAHMS Nobel Laureate, University of Melbourne Professor Dale Godfrey, FAHMS, Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Professor Damian Purcell, Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

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