Greg Hunt announces MRFF funding for more COVID-19 vaccines

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Health minister Greg Hunt has announced $6 million in additional funding from the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Coronavirus Research Response to support three Australian COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

"The rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a critical Australian Government priority," said Mr Hunt.

The minister said The University of Melbourne will receive almost $3 million to develop two vaccine candidates.

"Both vaccines are targeting the tip of the spike protein, known as the receptor binding domain, but use different vaccine techniques to compare which vaccine maximises the production of neutralising antibodies," he said.

One of the candidates is based on mRNA technology, the same in development by companies like Pfizer and Moderna, while the other is based on a protein that will be delivered into the body to trigger an antibody immune response.

The University of Sydney will receive almost $3 million for a phase 1/1b clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of its novel DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is being developed so it can be administered using a needle-free system.

Mr Hunt said, "The trial is a partnership with four of Australia’s most experienced vaccine trial sites and aims to enrol 150 healthy volunteers. Findings from the trial will inform evaluation of the vaccine in larger Phase two and three trials."

The government has previously announced investments in COVID-19 vaccines in development at the University of Queensland and by Adelaide-based company Vaxine.

The prime minister recently announced agreements with AstraZeneca and CSL under which it secured over 80 million doses of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates if they are approved.