$1m for Covax-19 vaccine work

The Australian Government is backing efforts by vaccination biotech company Vaxine Pty Ltd to find an effective vaccination for COVID-19.

The $1 million grant is one of 13 early stage biomedical projects to receive funding through the Federal Government’s Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) program, part of Australia’s landmark Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

“Thanks to our unique ability to run computer simulations on the virus before it is even fully characterised, we were able to dramatically speed up the ability to design our Covax-19® vaccine,” says Flinders University Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, Research Director of Vaxine.

The Vaxine research team used this computer modelling on the virus spike protein to rapidly design a synthetic COVID-19 vaccine.

“The vaccine based on the synthetic spike protein was then manufactured in insect cell cultures before being combined with our Vaxine Advax adjuvant, which is used to turbocharge the vaccine and make it more effective,” Professor Petrovsky says.

The Vaxine team was able to design, manufacture and advance Covax-19® into human trials in under five months in a process that normally would take up to 15 years, he says.

“The next step will be to undertake a large international Phase 3 clinical trial to confirm its ability to protect against COVID-19 infection ahead of possible commercial sales.”

As well as further development of the Covax-19 vaccine candidate in South Australia, the $10.4 million Federal Government funding rounds will assist other projects including a new treatment for respiratory complications of COVID-19, a preventive nasal spray, and a rapid response test to predict how severely the disease will progress.

Industry partners have contributed a further $28 million to the 13 projects, leading to a total $38.4 million of new investment in the biomedical sector. The BTB is a four year $22.3 million MRFF program, operated by MTPConnect.

Last week, the Vaxine research group released a list of up to 80 new potential candidate drugs against the COVID-19 virus.

The possible therapies were identified using cloud-based supercomputer programs used by Vaxine Pty Ltd in its vaccination research modelling, allowing other researchers to further investigate their potential. Using the genetic sequence of COVID-19 the team built three dimensional molecular structures of key COVID-19 proteins that were then used to screen existing drugs and natural remedies for potential activity against the COVID-19 protease protein.

The team used high performance cloud computing services provided by Oracle Corporation under a research grant to Flinders University that enabled the team to rapidly screen for potential drugs against COVID-19.

Professor Petrovsky will speak on ‘The race to develop COVID-19 vaccines and treatments ‘ in an Oracle for Health webinar on 10 September (US times).  

Vaxine is working with several other technology and pharmaceutical companies to fast-track its COVID-19 research, including development of a possible COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is exciting to be at the forefront of global COVID-19 science efforts, applying all the latest cutting edge methods including artificial intelligence and high performance cloud computing to create potential pandemic drugs and vaccines as part of the Vaxine team,” says first author Dr Sakshi Piplani, who leads Vaxine’s bioinformatics team.

The drug candidate research findings, ‘Computational screening of repurposed drugs and natural products against SARS-Cov-2 main protease (Mpro) as potential COVID-19 therapies’ can be found online at the BioXiv pre-press server ahead of future publication after peer review (arXiv identifier 2009.00744).

Posted in
College of Medicine and Public Health