Our research is forming an integral part of the rapid global response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of an international coalition, our research will enhance Australia’s preparedness and help fast-track the development of a new vaccine.

A bright yellow circle with orange rounded spikes protruding all around the perimeter of the circle against a dark background.

An image of the corona virus responsible for causing the disease COVID-19. Credit: CSIRO  ©Credit: CSIRO

20 April 2020

CSIRO has unveiled a new approach to analysing the genetic codes – or the blueprint – of the virus that causes COVID-19. The findings will help researchers better understand how strains of the virus evolve and help identify new clusters of the virus.

Analysing global data on the published genome sequences of this novel coronavirus will help fast track our understanding of this complex disease.

The researchers developed a novel visualisation platform, underpinned by bioinformatics algorithms originally used to analyse the human genome, to pinpoint differences among the thousands of genetic sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Read the full announcement.

2 April: CSIRO begins first stage of testing COVID-19 vaccines

CSIRO commenced pre-clinical trials for two COVID-19 vaccine candidates at our high-containment facility, the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (formerly the Australian Animal Health Laboratory) in Geelong in late March.

This work is part of our strategic partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), who engaged us in January to help build an understanding of the virus that causes COVID-19.

In consultation with the World Health Organisation, CEPI has identified vaccine candidates from The University of Oxford (UK) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (US) to undergo the first pre-clinical trials at CSIRO, with further candidates likely to follow.  

CSIRO is testing the COVID-19 vaccine candidates for efficacy. We are also evaluating the best way to give the vaccine for better protection, including an intra-muscular injection versus nasal spray.

Read the full announcement.

9 March 2020

CSIRO is obtaining a better understanding of the virus, and once we receive vaccine candidates from other organisations that are developing them, our team can begin testing of new potential vaccines and therapeutics being developed to see if they work and are safe.

Researchers believe they will soon be ready to commence pre-clinical testing of COVID-19 (coronavirus) candidate vaccines, after successfully establishing ferrets as a suitable model for the trials . This is a significant milestone in Australia’s goal to develop a vaccine.

Our team, based at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in Geelong, are the first scientists to establish that ferrets are susceptible to SARS CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19. Our team has progressed to studying the course of infection in the animals – a crucial step in understanding if a vaccine will work.

Within two weeks of starting the trial, our team was able to confirm they had taken the correct research approach, with coronavirus replicating in the animal host.

After studying SARS CoV-2’s genomic sequence, the CSIRO team has also confirmed that, at present, the virus is mutating into a number of distinct ‘clusters’ and they are now starting to look at how this may also be significant in the race to develop a vaccine.

We are carefully balancing operating at speed in response to a global public health emergency versus not compromising on the science CSIRO is renowned for.

5 March 2020

Since receiving the virus sample last month, our scientists have been working around the clock to get a better understanding of the virus – how long it takes to develop and replicate, how it impacts the respiratory system and how it can be transmitted.  

Work on developing our pre-clinical testing model is advancing. We will be in a position to share an update on how this work is progressing soon.

22 February 2020

The University of Queensland (UQ) has confirmed the creation of the vaccine candidate for coronavirus, COVID-19, which was achieved in just three weeks. UQ’s vaccine candidate will now move to further testing at our state-of-the-art biologics production facility in Melbourne where our scientists have begun small-scale production for testing.

After the initial small-scale testing, we will scale up production of the vaccine candidate using best-practice manufacturing standards for UQ to continue with the next stage of toxicology studies and testing.

31 January 2020

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global group that aims to derail epidemics by speeding up the development of vaccines, has engaged CSIRO to help determine the characteristics of the current virus – a key step in developing a new vaccine. The work will be undertaken at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, CSIRO's high-containment facility in Geelong, the only Physical Containment Level 4 (PC4) lab in Australia, and one of only five in the world.

The research aims to paint a clearer picture of the new coronavirus, including how long it takes to develop and replicate, how it impacts on the respiratory system and how it can be transmitted. Once information around where the virus originated and how it spreads becomes clearer, our team at our Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness can begin testing of new potential vaccines being developed in the context of CEPI's platform technology program that includes the University of Queensland and CSIRO.

The program was established to create a rapid response pipeline for developing and testing new vaccines against previously unknown pathogens, aiming to reduce development time from years to weeks.

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