Recruitment starts for Phase 1 clinical trial of two Melbourne-made COVID-19 vaccines

Melbourne researchers are calling on healthy people aged 18-70 living in Victoria to roll up their sleeves for a Phase 1 clinical trial of two Melbourne-made COVID-19 vaccines.

The two vaccine candidates, created by researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), are distinct from existing vaccines that are in use around the globe because they focus the immune response on the tip of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, called the receptor binding domain (RBD). The RBD enables the virus to enter and infect cells in the body and elicits over 90 per cent of neutralising antibodies (antibodies that can block the virus) following SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The two candidates are:

  • RBD protein vaccine – it uses part of the virus protein, rather than genetic material or another virus, to elicit an immune response.
  • RBD mRNA vaccine – represents the virus genetic sequence that codes for the tip of the spike, which will lead to production of the RBD protein.

In addition, they are ‘proof-of-principle’ variant vaccines that present the Beta variant to the immune system, which was of the greatest concern when these vaccines were designed. Furthermore, the Beta variant has two of the same key RBD mutations as the Omicron variants (BA.1 and BA.2), so they may also improve immunity to Omicron.

Professor Colin Pouton of MIPS, who led the development of the RBD mRNA vaccine, said the team used similar strategies to formulate and manufacture the vaccine to those used by other global biotech manufacturers, but designed the mRNA to focus on the RBD, in alignment with the RBD protein vaccine.

"In common with the RBD protein vaccine, the RBD mRNA vaccine induced high levels of RBD-specific antibodies and protected against virus challenge in the mouse model. We have good reason to think that both vaccines will perform well in the clinic," said Professor Pouton.

Read the full story here.

Find out how you can participate in trial here.