Australia Mobilizes Government Funding to Accelerate COVID-19 Research Initiatives & Light at the End of the Tunnel

Australia Mobiles Government Funding to Accelerate COVID-19 Research Initiatives & Light at the End of the Tunnel

The Australian Partnership for Pandemic Preparedness for Infectious Diseases (APPPID) reports that some researchers are just “a few weeks” away from concluding investigations of drugs that could reduce the deadly impact of COVID-19 via early diagnosis and treatment. Given any SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is probably a year away, pragmatic minds seek ways to improve detection and treatment in the medical quest to save lives. Additionally, Australian researchers run clinical trials to assess the validity of the “herd immunity” in which individuals’ resistance to the virus is spread.

A Flurry Research Efforts Targeting COVID-19 including a National Plan

The Australian Partnership for Pandemic Preparedness for Infectious Diseases represents a combined university effort, including the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. Sharon Lewin, director at Peter Doherty, reports, “I am actually quite optimistic we will have results at least—whether the results are good or not so good—from many clinical trials in the next few weeks.” Lewin recently told reporters in Melbourne, the biomedical research hub of Australia, that “The timeline for antiviral drugs and knowing whether they work or not is much shorter than for vaccines.” She continued, “Because these studies are using existing drugs, so we know their safety, we know how to use them. We just don’t know if they lead to clinical benefit.” There is a race against time as there are still many vulnerable segments of the population, such as those in nursing/elderly care homes.

The Australian national government recently invested over $36 million into fast tracked COVID-19 research initiatives, which are part of a much larger $2.4 billion COVID-19 National Health Plan announced by Australia’s Prime Minister in March.

Australian Federal Grant

Greg Hunt, the health minister, touted a $3 million research grant on Monday. These funds support frontline health workers with training and information which will support the treatment of patients with COVID-19. One million dollars will go toward the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to help transform the treatment and management of patients with severe COVID-19 in the hopes of better outcomes.

The CovED Initiative

CovED involves the use of artificial intelligence in support of frontline health workers using CT scans to expedite diagnosis of severity in coronavirus patients who struggle with breathing. CovED is delivered via a consortium led by DetectED-X (a University of Sydney startup) and the coronavirus Image Biobank with support from iCoreLab and a large consortium of University of Sydney and clinical experts. The web-based technology will support clinicians to updates their skills in diagnosing and managing patients with severe coronavirus through  the use of CT scans.

Australian Partnership for Pandemic Preparedness for Infectious Diseases Emergencies

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) received $2 million, which is allocated to the Australian Partnership for Pandemic Preparedness for Infectious Diseases Emergencies (APPRISE) to understand the prevalence, improve diagnostic tests, and develop innovative tools that limit the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The Doherty Institute

Recently, TrialSite News reported on the Doherty Institute roll in identifying the potential of Ivermectin to zap COVID-19 in a lab setting. They will receive $2 million to fund research to ensure rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 infections in elderly care facilities.

Australia Seeing Daylight at End of Tunnel?

The Guardian reported that Brendan Murphy, chief medical officer for the Australian Government, reported early diagnosis of those most at risk is vital for earlier and better treatment and recovery. Pointing to brighter days ahead, CMO Murphy noted the health system was “pretty close” to allowing a wind down of the strict measures, such as self-isolation and business closures. However, he cautioned that any relaxation of measures right now are “particularly risky” and he cannot predict when this will occur.