Federal Government to inject an extra $66 million into COVID-19 research

2 June 2020, Written by Business News Australia

Federal Government to inject an extra $66 million into COVID-19 research

Australian universities and medical research institutions will receive $66 million from the Federal Government for COVID-19 research.

The funds will be used by research teams that are looking into finding a vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, as well as being used to better prepare Australia for future pandemics.

The funding forms part of the Federal Government's Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), extending the $30 million already pledged for the 'Coronavirus Research Response'.

It also comes on top of a previously announced $220 million upgrade of CSIRO's high containment biosecurity research facility in Geelong, the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness.

"There is currently no vaccine or proven and effective treatments for COVID-19," says the Federal Government.

"Our Government is absolutely committed to protecting the community and this will help ensure Australians are protected from COVID-19 at the earliest possible time."

There are four target areas of research:

  1. Investing in a vaccine for COVID-19
  2. Investing in antiviral therapies for COVID-19
  3. Clinical trials of potential treatments for COVID-19
  4. Improving the health system's response to COVID-19 and future pandemics

1. Investing in a vaccine for COVID-19

The University of Queensland (UQ) will receive a further $2 million for their "molecular clamp" technology, which speeds up the process of vaccine development. This brings the total Australian Government investment in this to $5 million.

The Government has also announced a further $13.6 million grant to support COVID-19 vaccine development projects that appear promising.

Through an open competitive grant opportunity, an independent panel of experts will assess expressions of interest and invite formal applications from the most promising projects.

The grant opportunity will be open between 15 June 2020 and 15 March 2021, with expressions of interest assessed from 15 July 2020, 15 November 2020 and 15 March 2021.

2. Investing in antiviral therapies for COVID-19

The Government is providing $7.3 million to nine research teams to support the development of promising antiviral therapies for COVID-19.

"There are currently no known antiviral therapies for COVID-19," says the Federal Government.

"Having effective antiviral therapies will be a game changer for COVID-19, providing us with confidence that the disease can be managed."

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will receive $1 million for the VirDUB research project, that aims to develop medicines that stop COVID-19 from hijacking human cells and disabling their anti-viral defences.

By targeting a viral system that is found in a range of coronaviruses, VirDUB may lead to new medicines that could be instantly available to tackle potential future coronavirus disease outbreaks.

In addition, $2 million is being provided to an innovative project using stem cell-derived tissues to rapidly test drugs already approved for use in humans for activity against COVID-19.

Two laboratories, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Berghofer, will commence early stages of this research. Other laboratories will be able to join in coming months.

3. Clinical trials of potential treatments for COVID-19

The Government is providing $6.8 million to support seven clinical trials investigating treatments for the severe respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.

The clinical trials supported by this funding will investigate treatments for critically ill patients, health care workers and vulnerable cancer patients.

4. Improving the health system's response to COVID-19 and future pandemics

The University of New South Wales will receive $3.3 million from the Government for genomics research into the behaviour, spread and evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

"The use of genomics will be critical to our response, as these tools give very robust insights into exposure and clusters, especially in low prevalence settings," says the Federal Government.

"Genomics essentially bar codes every virus so we know who is infected with the same virus as people in a cluster will have an identical bar code.

"This is critical to supporting public health responses to outbreaks as restrictions on gatherings are lifted."

The full breakdown of the funding program is as below:

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