The agreement concerns two potential vaccines: one from the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca; and the other from Australia's University of Queensland / CSL.
If trials are successful, the Australian Government pledges a free COVID-19 vaccine will be available progressively throughout 2021 in Australia.
The total number of vaccines ordered by the government is based on a two dose per person regime. The doses will be almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne: the epicentre of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak.
Two vaccine deal
Having entered Phase 3 trials, AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 viral vector vaccine would be available first: with 3.8 million doses lined up for Australia potentially as early as January and February. A total of 33.8 million vaccine doses will come from AstraZeneca.
Australian biotechnology company CSL will manufacture around 30 million doses of this vaccine. The Australian Government will provide funding to support CSL as it readies for production: helping expand Australia’s on-shore manufacturing capabilities with specialised equipment, recruitment and training.
Meanwhile, Australia will source 51 million doses from the University of Queensland’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
The University of Queensland is currently undertaking a Phase 1 clinical study on the recombinant protein vaccine (UQ-CSL V451) with CSL planning to take on a Phase 2b/3 clinical trial in late 2020. Upon completion of successful clinical trials, CSL expects the first doses to be available by mid-2021.
Building Australia's manufacturing capability
While some other countries have signed vaccine supply in advance of Australia, the Australian Government says that its domestic manufacturing capability has allowed it to take the time to examine vaccine candidates around the world as they progress and select the most promising for its agreement today.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasised both vaccines will need to be proven safe and effective and meet all necessary regulatory requirements.
“There are no guarantees that these vaccines will prove successful: however, the agreement puts Australia at the top of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light,” he said.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews added the agreements are a result of researchers and industry working together.
“The work we are doing now will also build our knowledge and strengthen our local manufacturing capability, which will grow our pharmaceutical and medtech sectors for the future,” she said.
CSL to lead production from Melbourne
Australian biotechnology company CSL has signed heads of agreement with the Australian Government to supply 51 million doses of the University of Queensland vaccine. UQ-CSL V451 is a recombinant protein vaccine which uses CSL’s Seqirus’ proprietary adjuvant MF59.
It has also signed heads of agreement with British/Swedish giant AstraZeneca for the expected manufacture of 30 million doses of the Oxford University AZD1222 vaccine.
A funding deed with the Australian government will help ready its facilities for AZD1222 manufacture.
In 2014 CSL opened its Biotechnology Manufacturing Facility in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, offering ‘a world class facility that is one of the largest and most advanced of its kind in the southern hemisphere’.
Paul Perreault, CEO and Managing Director, CSL, said, “We are pleased that we can produce the AZD11222 without compromising the production of our core products – influenza vaccines and plasma and recombinant protein therapies – and provide a second option for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Australia.
“Acknowledging that CSL is the only company in Australia with manufacturing facilities capable of producing this vaccine, we thank the Australian Government for their support, ensuring Australia has access to onshore COVID-19 vaccine production and supply. Our facilities will require modifications in order to fulfil the compliance requirements for working with vector-based vaccines, as well as the addition of skilled personnel and further capital investment.
“While there are still a number of milestones to be met, we are hopeful that by next year we’ll be in the fortunate position of having a vaccine candidate to support Australia and the world’s emergence from this crisis.”