COVID-19: Research is the answer
Science steps up in a time of crisis
Never in our lifetime have so many Australians, and so many across the globe, been so affected by a single health issue. And never have health experts, health workers and scientists been so widely thrust into the international spotlight, caring for the sick and racing to find new treatments and the Holy Grail – a COVID-19 vaccine.
In exciting news last week, one of the world’s first trials of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 is about to commence, and it is taking place here in Perth.
Linear Clinical Research, a subsidiary of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, will run the trial of a groundbreaking vaccine developed by China-based, global biotechnology company Clover Biopharmaceuticals.
The vaccine has been developed to help the body produce antibodies to fight the deadly virus.
It is a major coup that Linear has secured one of the world’s most prominent trials.
Australia is one of the few countries still offering clinical trials helped by our low rates of COVID-19.
Linear was awarded the study because of its extensive experience testing the world’s latest medical breakthroughs, its industry-leading digital innovations and its long term investment in China’s global biopharmaceutical industry.
The fight against COVID-19 requires such a global effort bringing together the best science and innovation to produce the best outcomes.
This significant announcement comes off the back of three extraordinary months where our Federal and State Chief Medical Officers have been standing alongside the Prime Minister and state Premiers, providing critical health information.
With the support of Australia’s leading philanthropists this group has had the unenviable task of balancing the health needs of millions against the health of our economy.
For Australians this invaluable teamwork, and the population’s willingness to follow advice, has greatly protected us from the dire situations seen in other countries.
The model adopted of staying home, practicing social distancing, washing hands and undertaking testing and contact tracing has delivered lifesaving results and we have reason to feel proud.
Additionally, our world-leading scientists have been playing a global part in researching what this virus is, how it behaves and spreads, how to detect it and how we can protect ourselves.
Quite suddenly medical research has gone mainstream. News feeds are filled with data and references to trials and new treatments.
Researchers are being sought out by the media for opinion. Institutes specialising in infectious diseases are becoming household names. And the wider community is seeing first-hand that science is the only way to combat this virus and those that may follow. And it will take all of us to defeat it.
Many Australian researchers are leading the charge against COVID-19. Experts like Global Biosecurity Professor Raina MacIntyre, at UNSW’s Kirby Institute is tracking Australia’s circumstances against the spread of COVID-19 globally so we can plan the next phase. Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, with her team, is isolating, growing and monitoring how the immune system responds to the virus. They are two of many.
In WA, Telethon Kids Institute has partnered with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute to support the roll out of the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine to test whether the existing tuberculosis vaccine can reduce healthcare workers’ chances of COVID-19 infection, lessen the severity of symptoms and boost immunity.
The West Australian Health Translation Network has been tasked by WA Health Minister, Roger Cook, to coordinate the WA research response to the COVID-19.
One of the first collaborative projects to be actioned is a tissue and data bank for COVID-19 to accelerate research on the virus. This is being run out of the Harry Perkins South building with researchers from the Fiona Stanley Hospital, The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Murdoch University as the chief investigators.
And at the Perkins, cardiologists, Professors Peter Thompson and Girish Dwivedi are working with Professor Roslyn Francis from UWA to establish studies to assess whether there are persistent areas of inflammation in the lungs in patients who have recovered clinically from the virus as this may be a predictor of increased risk for future heart disease. They also plan to examine the effects of high blood pressure medications on COVID-19 with the aim of better treating and managing patients.
All this innovative research, plus our capacity to trial potential vaccines and the successful teamwork of our health advisors, political leaders and the public is helping put Australia ahead of the curve.