The federal government has canned a deal to buy tens of millions of doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed in Australia.
The decision was made after the University of Queensland and biotechnology company CSL abandoned trials of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
CSL said in a statement that while phase 1 trials of the vaccine v451 amongst 216 participants showed it was safe, it had “following agreement with the Australian government” decided not to progress the trials.
The trials were abandoned after some participants returned false positive results for another illness – HIV.
“The phase 1 data showed the generation of antibodies directed towards the ‘molecular clamp’ component of the vaccine,” CSL said on Friday.
“These antibodies interfere with certain HIV diagnostic assays.
CSL said blood samples from study participants were tested after vaccination and it was found that these molecular clamp antibodies did cause a false positive.
“Follow up tests confirmed that there was no HIV virus present, just a false positive on certain HIV tests,” CSL said.
“There is no possibility the vaccine causes infection.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt will hold a press conference at 8am, followed by a further update from UQ and CSL at 9am.
“The government was very deliberate in not just backing one vaccine, because as we know, there are many cases where there is a problem through the trial process or there is some other issue,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Nine’s Today show.
“We … made a prudent decision to back a number of vaccines.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who joined other state and territory leaders in Canberra on Friday for a meeting of the national cabinet, said the UQ/CSL outcome was disappointing.
“Of course, there is going to be some winners and losers,” she told Nine.
“It is very, very disappointing about the UQ vaccine but there are a lot of other candidates out there.”
The government is believed to have been told on Monday that UQ and CSL had abandoned the trials ahead of cabinet on Thursday agreeing to end an agreement to buy 50 million doses of the potential vaccine.
The government had previously said it wanted to start rolling out a vaccine to the Australian community early in the new year.
It has other vaccine options beyond the UQ/CSL project, including a vaccine being developed in the UK by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.