By mid-2021, volunteers aged between 18 and 75 years will be recruited for an accelerated clinical trial of two 'next generation' vaccines against COVID-19, developed by researchers at the University of Melbourne. These clinical trials are among six chosen to receive immediate funding totalling $10.1 million from the Morrison Government's Medical Research Future Fund's Clinical Trials Activity Initiative. These vaccines offer a number of potential advantages to 'first generation' COVID-19 vaccines, and do not require storage in the extremely low temperatures needed for the Pfizer vaccine. Following encouraging results during preclinical testing, the Government's support is expediting the process to move research efforts from the lab and into human trials.
Among the other proposals to be tested are the use of germicidal ultraviolet light to reduce infection rates in aged care facilities, and 3D-printed face masks to match facial shape and prevent leaks. Mask leak with existing P2/N95 respirators is a major problem for health care workers.
The main reason for face mask leak is the individual variability in the shape of the human face. For further information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 2020-2030: COVID Edition.
One clinical trial will test the effectiveness and feasibility of customised 3D-printed face guards used in conjunction with P2/N95 respirators as a way of reducing face mask leak. This is a rapidly scalable, customised technology that could quickly and feasibly be utilised around the world.
A further trial will test the effectiveness of an inexpensive and rapidly implementable germicidal ultraviolet air-treatment strategy, used in conjunction with existing infection control measures, as a means to reduce rates of respiratory viral infection in residential aged care facilities.
Each of these extremely promising Australian innovations has the potential to dramatically shift the global battle against COVID-19, which will begin clinical trials from early 2021.
The Government's Medical Research Future Fund matured at $20 billion in July 2020, providing a long term sustainable source of research funding. It is transforming Australia's health and medical research sector and supporting the best and brightest researchers.
Source: Ministers Department of Health, Australia
Top image: Katie Chen/UW Medicine Newsroom