The University of Queensland’s (UQ) COVID-19 vaccine has become the 32nd to enter clinical trials, with the first human volunteers receiving their initial dose in a Phase 1 trial.

Clinical trials are split into three phases. Phase 1 tests for safety, Phase 2 for efficacy, and Phase 3 is a broader population study that confirms whether it’s both safe and works in a wide group of people.

UQ vaccine project co-leader Professor Paul Young expects to have preliminary results after about three months. All going well, a vaccine is anticipated around mid-2021.

However, former New Zealand prime minister and head of the global inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen Clark, told Nine Newspapers over the weekend a widely available vaccine could be two and a half years away for Australia.

Although a vaccine may make it through the notoriously challenging clinical trial process by mid-2021, it will still take time to make enough doses for widespread distribution.

Stockhead reported in April that at best, Australia could see a vaccine being available for the whole population in mid-2022.

Tech on trial

The UQ project started in January and is funded to the tune of $US4.5m by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The Queensland Government provided $10m, the Federal Government $5m, while $10m has come from philanthropic and other donors.

CSL (ASX:CSL) will make any successful vaccine from the UQ project.

UQ’s vaccine is made using its new “molecular clamp” technology.

The patented tech changes the shape of a specific protein on the virus allowing the immune system to recognise and kill it. The technology can be applied to a range of animal and human viruses, Young says.

One of many in human trials

So far 24 other new vaccine candidates are in human trials around the world and another seven repurposed vaccines, such as the tuberculosis BCG vaccine, are also undergoing trials to check whether they work on COVID-19.

The Milken Institute estimates there are about 180 vaccine projects underway around the world.