The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia has begun the first stage of testing of two potential Covid-19 vaccines.

Estimated for completion in three months, the testing is taking place at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong.

CSIRO joined the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in January to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) consultation, CEPI selected vaccine candidates from the UK’s University of Oxford and Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the US for the first pre-clinical trials at CSIRO.

The plan is to test more coronavirus vaccine candidates in the future.

In addition to vaccine testing, CSIRO is working to scale up vaccine candidates at its biologics production facility in Melbourne.

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CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “Beginning vaccine candidate testing at CSIRO is a critical milestone in the fight against Covid-19, made possible by collaboration both within Australia and across the globe.”

“CSIRO researchers are working around-the-clock to combat this disease which is affecting so many – whether it’s at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) or at our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility – we will keep working until this viral enemy is defeated.”

The tests aim to assess the efficacy of vaccine candidates, along with the best approach to administer the vaccine for better protection, including an intra-muscular and nasal route.

AAHL director Trevor Drew said: “We have been studying SARS CoV-2 since January and getting ready to test the first vaccine candidates as soon as they are available.

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

CSIRO already produced a stock of SARS-CoV-2 for pre-clinical studies and research based on the virus strain isolated by the Doherty Institute.

Furthermore, CSIRO created a biological model, which showed that ferrets react to the novel coronavirus. Researchers are now analysing the course of infection in animals to help determine whether a vaccine will be effective.

CSIRO researchers also found that SARS-CoV-2 is evolving into different ‘clusters’ and are evaluating any possible effect on vaccine development.

Last month, researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia announced a clinical trial to test the use of tuberculosis vaccine BCG against Covid-19.