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COVID-19 research receives $66 million boost


Morgan Liotta


2/06/2020 3:07:08 PM

The funding injection will target four areas of research in the quest for a vaccine and preparation for future pandemics.

Laboratory testing.
Antivirals are being investigated as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Despite tireless efforts across the globe, there is currently no vaccine or proven treatment for COVID-19.
 
In a further attempt to fast-track a vaccine and treatment, the Australian Government has made $66 million in funding available through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), extending the $30 million already pledged for the Coronavirus Research Response.
 
The MRFF’s Coronavirus Research Response is part of the $8 billion COVID-19 National Health Plan, supporting primary care, aged care, hospitals, research and the national medical stockpile.
 
The additional support will enable Australian researchers to further contribute to controlling and eliminating the virus, as well as better preparing for future pandemics.
 
Building on previous COVID-19 research investment, including into improving diagnosis and care for patients who test positive, there are four key areas of research covered by the new funding package.
 
Developing a vaccine
The University of Queensland (UQ) will receive a further $2 million for its molecular clamp technology, which allows development of new vaccines to be fast-tracked in response to emerging diseases. The university is collaborating with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, helping to place Australia at the forefront of global efforts to develop a vaccine.
 
Antiviral therapies
Nine research teams will be allocated a total of $7.3 million to support the development of effective antiviral therapies. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s VirDUB research project aims to develop medicines that stop COVID-19 from attacking human cells and disabling their anti-viral defences. The Victorian research organisation will receive $1 million to help protect Australia from future pandemics.
 
‘Living’ clinical guidelines for healthcare professionals are also available, and updated weekly.
 
Clinical trials of potential treatments
Clinical trials will be supported through a $6.8 million investment, aimed at examining treatments for coronavirus-related severe respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. In particular, research will focus on critically ill patients, healthcare workers and immunocompromised patients, such as those with cancer and older people.
 
As part of the clinical trials, researchers are testing whether hydroxychloroquine is protective against COVID-19 in high-risk healthcare workers. A human vaccine trial has also commenced to examine the body’s immune response to the virus.
 
Improving the health system’s response to COVID-19 and future pandemics
Improving Australia’s health system response will be assisted through funding allocated to various areas of research.
 
The University of New South Wales will receive $3.3 million for genomics research into the behaviour, spread and evolution of the virus, to support public health responses to outbreaks as restrictions on gatherings are lifted.
 
Funding grants for research in national health system response will be allocated to digital health research infrastructure, research into the human immune response to infection, and research to understand and address the community’s information needs and behavioural drivers during outbreaks.
 
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