In recent years, the Australian government, led by the Department of Defence, Science and Technology has been working to build a medical countermeasures capability.
Medical countermeasures (MCMs) include vaccines (preventing infections), therapeutics (treating symptoms of infection), diagnostics (methods to assist with diagnosing a disease) and detection (understanding the pathogens that are causing a disease) which can be used to protect military and civilian personnel.
Medical counter measures may be used in the event of a potential public health emergency stemming from a terrorist attack with a biological, chemical, or radiological/nuclear material, or a naturally occurring emerging disease.
Our scientists are conducting research, development and preclinical evaluation of medical countermeasures for dangerous pathogens affecting humans and animals at ACDP, our national biocontainment facility.
What is preclinical research?
Before any medicine, vaccine or medical equipment can be sold or administered, it needs to go through rigorous testing to ensure the products safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness. Medical countermeasures are subject to the same system.
New compounds are being discovered or synthesised around the world everyday and on average only one out of every 5000 make it to the pharmacy shelves.
Any new drug candidate is subject to several preclinical studies to establish and characterize its safety profile.
Preclinical research involves laboratory studies including biochemical and animal experiments to show if a medicine could be useful and safe for animals and humans.
The pre-clinical stage is important for sorting out the most promising candidates to go on to human clinical trials, which are costly and time consuming.
What are CSIRO's preclinical capabilities?
ACDP is one of only a handful of laboratories in the world with the capacity to enable large and small animal studies and work on infectious diseases of livestock at the highest level of biocontainment, Physical containment level 4 (PC4).1
This capability allows our scientist to work on solutions to protect Australia's animal and people from disease outbreaks.
Our scientists conduct many experiments using in vitro and ex vivo methods during their research to demonstrate the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a solution before final testing is considered.
For example, ex vivo models include the use of primary lung epithelial cells to characterise the host-pathogen response; the use of 3D structures made of many cells (called spheroids and organoids) and more complex biomimetic organ-on-a-chip microsystems; all of which can help understand the mechanisms of action of respiratory and aerosolised threats, and accelerate preclinical evaluation of appropriate MCMs.
These systems have lower cost; greater reproducibility; shorter turnaround time and higher throughput.
At ACDP, teams of scientists conduct research on deadly viruses such as 2019-nCoV, Ebola, SARS, Nipah, Hendra and Lyssavirus, within the maximum containment laboratories as well as research on development and evaluation of MCMs.
Our research is focussed on trying to determine how such viruses cause severe disease in humans, as well as on the development and testing of vaccines and therapeutics to reduce the impact of future outbreaks.
We look forward to continuing our work with academia, industry, international funding bodies and other public sector organisations to conduct world class preclinical studies for dangerous pathogens requiring high containment, especially at PC Level 4.
- At CSIRO and ACDP, we take the welfare of animals extremely seriously, and our staff adhere to the strictest levels of approvals, ethics and animal welfare. Animal studies require very strict approvals including ethics and demonstration that the 3R’s have been implemented, Replacement: methods which avoid or replace the use of animals; Reduction: methods which minimise the number of animals used per experiment and Refinement: methods which minimise animal suffering and improve welfare.