GRIDD researchers take next step in COVID-19 vaccine development

Mouse model trials will begin shortly on several COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Griffith University scientists. 

Lead researcher Professor Bernd Rehm (above) at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD) has spearheaded the development of the platform technology which uses a synthetic version of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) which means selected virus components are assembled by safe microbial cell factories. This allows rapid vaccine design combined with a high-yield bioprocess for mass production of the vaccine. 

“Our Centre for Cell Factories and Biopolymers has developed a technology which allows us to quickly adapt to emerging threats by precision engineering vaccines. 

“The approach is based on hijacking the assembly pathways of microbial cells to assemble our own targets in this process.” 

Professor Rehm, who is the author or co-author of nearly 60 patent applications, said his team has already developed four vaccine candidates containing components of the virus which causes COVID-19. 

Professor Bernd Rehm holds one of the four COVID-19 vaccine candidates

“We essentially have these microscopic factories assembling these virus-like particles presenting the virus components,” Professor Rehm said. 

GRIDD developed a platform technology to rapidly respond to newly emerging pathogens not only enabling fast design of new vaccines but also employing a manufacturing process that can be ported across to an industrial production facility to enable supply of vaccine to millions of people within weeks. 

They have now partnered with Brisbane-based biomanufacturing company Luina Bio to deliver the vaccine candidates. 

“The beauty of this platform is unlike many others; we are able to scale up the number of doses manufactured in a short period of time. 

 “Should we eventually find a promising vaccine candidate that confers protection, we will be able to mass produce it rapidly 

“Our manufacturing partner conceivably could create up to 16 million vaccine doses per week,” Professor Rehm said. 

Like many other research teams worldwide attempting to develop an effective vaccine, time and funding remain their greatest enemy with researchers all too aware of the cost of clinical trials which may take between six and twelve months before final approval. 

“We are about to conduct animal trials with our four candidates and hopefully by May we will have the immune responses for the vaccine candidates mappedThe results will guide the choice of the vaccine candidate for testing in humans. 

“We urgently need funding to move to the next step,” he said.