Omicron vaccine trial has commenced in Adelaide

08 July 2022

SA Pathology will be providing support to a new COVID vaccine trial being held at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. The vaccine has been developed by The University of Adelaide and has been manufactured in South Australia by Adelaide company BioCina, targeting the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

We have had the opportunity to speak to SA Pathology’s Clinical Immunologist, Associate Professor Pravin Hissaria about how we are supporting the trail and how it will be delivered. In his role as a Clinical Immunologist, he is able to provide an assessment and management of autoimmune, immunodeficiency and allergic diseases.

“I have been working for SA Pathology for 18 years, Immunology sits under SA Pathology, and I have been doing full clinical sessions at the hospital (RAH). I was also made medical director of the COVID vaccination program across CAHLN sites – we were one of the first in the country to run a COVID vaccination clinic in March 2021.” says Pravin.

As Principal Clinical Investigator of this trial, Pravin explains the importance of SA Pathology’s role in the project “We will be conducting both the screening bloods and post vaccine bloods - the trial will all up require up to 200 tests, which we are providing to the trial in-kind. The reason why we are providing this support is because this vaccine has been developed by the University of Adelaide and is not a pharmaceutical sponsored trial. We have collaborated with the university previously, particularly on research on COVID vaccine allergy.”

The development of the DNA-based vaccine was undertaken at the University of Adelaide and Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with the trial being led by Associate Professor Branka Grubor-Bauk and Professor Eric Gowans. The Hospital Research Foundation Group has been funding the team’s vaccine development for the past 10 years which has supported the trail to reach this important milestone.

DNA vaccines require simple engineering design modifications that can be made quickly to adapt to future variants, as opposed to MRNA-based vaccines. Pravin explains that “If it proves that giving a specific booster rather than giving more of the same, it is a better thing to do. This platform had been approved, but we are saying that we can do it in-house within Adelaide. We can tailor the next vaccine against future variants, so we are not just administering the same.

I often get asked about is whether we require yearly vaccines or not – we can’t keep giving the same vaccine year after year because this virus (Omicron) is totally different to COVID-19, this is COVID-22.”

The vaccine will be administered using a needle-free device from American company Pharmajet. The device delivers a micro-jet spray of liquid, which goes under the skin and is painless. “Because this is a DNA vaccine it needs to be given into the skin. The device has been used before overseas, and there are a couple of licenced vaccines that already use it, but this is the first time in Australia.”

The development of highly effective vaccines has been the best way in containing COVID and supporting trials of new vaccines are important particularly when they are developed locally. The general public’s reception of the new trial has so far has been positive “I think the design of the clinical trial is very important in terms of intake. In terms of enthusiasm, excitement, and enrolment, if you are honest and open then people will be interested.” Says Pravin.

“Making sure that your science is put in ley language so that everyone understands the purpose is important. In Australia we are really philanthropic, and we like to contribute to science.”

Interested in participating in the trial?

To be eligible to participate in the clinical trial, you must be over 18, triple vaccinated for more than three months and not previously have had COVID-19.

Visit www.health.adelaide.edu.au/cosvac-study for more information.

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