COVID-19 vaccine trials at UNSW's Scientia Clinical Research

Early phase trials continue as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces agreements for more potential vaccines.
Belinda Henwood | UNSW Newsroom

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced agreements at UNSW Sydney’s Scientia Clinical Research (SCR) to secure two more COVID-19 vaccines. SCR, with its world-class expertise and state-of-the-art facilities, has been involved with early phase clinical trials for the Novavax vaccine. If proven safe and effective through trials, Novavax will supply 40 million vaccine doses.

“By securing multiple COVID-19 vaccines we are giving Australians the best shot at early access to a vaccine, should trials prove successful,” the Prime Minister said.

“We aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket and we will continue to pursue further vaccines should our medical experts recommend them.

“There are no guarantees that these vaccines will prove successful, however our strategy puts Australia at the front of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light.”

UNSW is the only university in Australia that owns and runs a specialty Phase 1 clinical trial facility.

Dr Charlotte Lemech, SCR’s Medical Director, said the facility is approached by both large pharma and smaller biotech companies to perform Phase 1 clinical trials because of their expertise and the quality of clinical trial recruitment and data coming out of Australian clinical trial sites.

“We are very excited to be a part of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine development,” Dr Lemech said. “The Prime Minister’s visit today was recognition of the Scientia team’s hard work and the time given by the volunteers participating in the clinical trials.

“As Australia's newest centre for early phase clinical trials and a first for NSW, Scientia has been an important addition for UNSW and Prince of Wales Hospital to be able to do dedicated early phase trial research.”

UNSW Dean of Medicine Professor Vlado Perkovic said developing a vaccine for COVID-19 is a critical issue for the whole world from a health as well as a social and economic perspective.

“Having high-quality research facilities like SCR is crucial to being able to respond rapidly and deliver solutions that allow us to move past the pandemic.”

Professor Perkovic said these clinical trials are an important element of the broader effort UNSW Sydney is making to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“UNSW’s contribution stretches from advocacy, public communication, epidemiology and assisting NSW Health, to developing new antibodies and, in this case, testing new vaccines. It’s an all-of-University approach to help us get through the challenges posed by the vaccine,” he said.

UNSW Medicine is also home to two world-leading epidemiologists, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws and Professor Raina MacIntyre. Both have provided expert commentary throughout the coronavirus pandemic, nationally and internationally.

Professor McLaws is a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program Experts Advisory Panel for Infection Prevention and Control Preparedness, Readiness and Response to COVID-19. Professor MacIntyre heads the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute which conducts research in epidemiology, vaccinology, public health and clinical trials in infectious diseases.

SCR is part of the largest and most comprehensive healthcare precincts in Australia, which incorporates UNSW Sydney, the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, Prince of Wales Hospital and Royal Hospital for Women. The precinct is renowned globally for producing high-quality, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.