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Queensland tapped by US to develop MERS-CoV antibody

Queensland scientists are planning to collaborate with top American researchers to develop an antibody against the growing global threat of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). 

Queesnsland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the announcement after a meeting in Washington with leading researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

“Following the successful world-class research and development they did on the Hendra monoclonal antibody, Queensland researchers have been asked to produce a monoclonal antibody for MERS-CoV,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), under director Professor Peter Gray, has been asked to lead the project.”

Professor Gray and his team worked with US colleagues in the development of the world-first anti-Hendra monoclonal antibody, which was approved for human trials in April this year. The trials are running in Brisbane with Dr Geoffrey Playford as the lead investigator.

“We would be delighted for this work to come to Queensland, further enhancing our reputation of becoming a centre of biotechnology excellence,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said while it was still early in the piece, she hoped many of the same groups that contributed to the success of the Hendra project would be involved.

“The Hendra trial was an excellent example of what good health research collaboration can achieve,” Dr Young said.

“While we have had no on-shore cases of MERS in Australia, it is a serious and infectious disease. Australia receives a significant number of people that originate in areas affected by the disease, and it would be prudent to be prepared.

“The recent outbreak in South Korea, which caused over a thousand people to be quarantined, showed how quickly the situation can change.”

Director of AIBN Professor Peter Gray said he and his team looked forward to the challenge of developing the antibody and shepherding it through the many stages leading to human trials, and eventual compassionate use.

“I think it’s fantastic that we’re involved in getting on the front foot against these serious diseases,” Professor Gray said.

Last updated: 5 June 2015