Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences receives MRFF funding for COVID-19 vaccine Phase 1 clinical trial

The Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has invested just over $1.5 million to begin the Phase 1 clinical trial of two Melbourne-based COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

The Phase 1 trial is a critical stage in the vaccine development process that will see healthy adult volunteers receive the first dose of the vaccine, with researchers evaluating the safety of the candidates and their immune response.


The vaccine candidates have been developed by a team of researchers from the Doherty Institute and the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS). World-leading Australian vaccine manufacturer Seqirus (a CSL company), is providing some materials to enhance vaccine performance.

MIPS Professor of Pharmaceutical Biology, Professor Colin Pouton said: “We are delighted the MRFF is extending its support for the collaborative vaccine program, which will enable the two candidates to go into a human Phase 1 clinical trial.”

They focus on the tip of SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, known as the receptor binding domain (RBD), which mediates the virus’s ability to attach and enter the cell. Through targeting the RBD region, the vaccine candidates focus the immune system on blocking virus attachment and infection.

"Here at MIPS, our approach includes messenger RNA technol­ogy which should provide a very safe and focussed vaccine with the important ability to rapidly adjust its composition in response to emerging virus mutations - if the virus mutates, a new vaccine can be tested within a few weeks," says Professor Pouton.

The two candidates provide two distinct approaches to introduce the virus RBD to our immune system to generate antibodies that neutralise viral infectivity:

  1. RBD protein – represents the tip of the spike in an isolated molecular form.
  2. RBD mRNA – represents the virus genetic sequence that codes for the tip of the spike, which will lead to transient production of the RBD protein.

Following encouraging results during preclinical testing, the Commonwealth Government’s support is expediting the process to move research efforts from the lab and into human trials.

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Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmceutical Sciences
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