House debates

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Vaccine

2:26 pm

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on the Morrison government's investment in vaccine research and development, including the molecular clamp being developed by the University of Queensland?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the member for Robertson, who has been a great advocate for medical research—in particular, with regard to the development of the new Central Coast campus for medical research in her own area.

I want to welcome as a sign of hope, not just for Australians but for people around the world, the latest findings from the University of Queensland in regard to the development of the molecular clamp vaccine candidate. These are what are known as preclinical trial findings, and they were announced and released today. What they show is that the early testing indicates that antibodies are being developed and the virus is being neutralised. I just want to repeat that: antibodies are being developed and the virus is being neutralised. That is what we seek with a vaccine. That is what gives hope and that is what gives protection. That is the process—whether we are dealing with smallpox, measles, polio or so many other conditions over the course of the last century—which has allowed us to offer transformative hope and medical outcomes.

The next thing that occurred was that phase 1 clinical trials began in July. Those phase 1 clinical trials, for which we don't have the data yet, are about establishing the safety of this vaccine. We are hopeful that the vaccine candidate, the molecular clamp, will be successful in those. All of the early indications are positive. That is why this government, through an independent assessment process, has provided $5 million of Medical Research Future Fund investment. It's part of a much broader approach—the vaccine strategy which the Prime Minister announced last week. Firstly, there is research, for which there is $358 million available for vaccines, preventions and treatments. Secondly, there is direct procurement. We've already reached the first agreement in regard to AstraZeneca and the first stage of that, which was announced last week, for whole-of-population vaccines supply in this nation. Thirdly, there is the international coalition—the work with Gavi and the Covax Facility. Funding was announced today for Australia to assist less-developed countries in our region to have access to this international outcome. It was an act of national commitment to our own region. Finally, there is the development within our own nation, through CSL, of production facilities—production in Australia, for Australians.

So we welcome today's announcement by the University of Queensland that the molecular clamp is making real progress in helping to fight coronavirus and give Australians hope and protection.