It's a story that reads like a thriller: a vaccine developed in Australia that needs to get to the Netherlands in the middle of a raging pandemic. It takes place in March of last year and it stars the UQ Covid-19 molecular clamp vaccine that supposedly tackles COVID-19's most deadly variants.
“So many times when we thought, ‘This is it, we’re done, just give up now, this is not going to happen.’ And every time the huge barrier came up, we found a way through. Every time we were waiting for a technical bit of data that we thought was make or break, it went our way. Every single time," said to the Daily Telegraph Professor Trent Munro, the project manager of the University of Queensland (UQ) vaccine when describing the vaccine's story.
The vaccine did finally make it to Amsterdam but the researchers decided not to go forward with the key human efficacy studies. The Australian scientists were devastated but they weren't defeated.
‘We’ll turn around and pick ourselves up from this and progress with an alternative Clamp 2.0’,” said virologist Professor Paul Young, the project’s co-lead and head of UQ’s school of chemistry and molecular biosciences.
What was the problem with the clamp vaccine? It had HIV showing up as false positives in some HIV diagnostic tests, a risk few people were willing to take.
So the researchers went back to work and have now conceived of Clamp 2.0. In April, the scientists published the clinical trial data confirming their molecular clamp-stabilised vaccine technology was safe and potentially effective, stating that 99 percent of vaccinated participants in the study produced a neutralizing immune response.
This time around the researchers, however, are not revealing just what virus has replaced the HIV peptides in this revised version until they are confident they have got something that’s working. But they have big plans for their Clamp 2.0.
"We will generate a Covid-19 vaccine that could be applied as a booster for ongoing maintenance of the immune protection in the community when the virus becomes endemic, if it does," said Young
Clamp 2.0, Phase 1 clinical trials are now scheduled to begin in the first half of next year. We will be watching closely to see how they perform. In the meantime, Australia continues to push vaccines that are at the forefront of medicine such as a vaccine "patch" being developed out of the University of Queensland and a "nasal spray" vaccine being tested in Brisbane.