Local professor involved in Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine development

University of Otago, Christchurch Dean Professor David Murdoch is one of three international experts advising Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine development effort.

The British research group is considered one of the most likely to succeed in developing a vaccine against the virus.

David is a world-recognised infectious diseases researcher. He also works as a clinical microbiologist at Canterbury Health Laboratories.

His role as a member of the Oxford University trial steering committee is to provide expert oversight on all aspects of vaccine development, including monitoring trials in small then larger groups of people to test its effectiveness.

The Oxford vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, which has been modified so it cannot grow in humans, David says.

“The spike glycoprotein from the virus that causes COVID-19 is added in the hope it will make the body recognise and develop an immune response to the spike protein and stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus entering human cells and therefore prevent infection.”

There are six stages a vaccine must go through during development. These are: exploratory, pre-clinical, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, manufacturing and, finally, quality control.

The Oxford vaccine is currently at the third stage: clinical development. It is being trialled in people in the United Kingdom and trials will soon extend to Brazil and Africa.

These are good places to test new vaccines as COVID-19 is still widespread in the community, he says.

“In contrast, New Zealand is not an option for large-scale trials of COVID-19 vaccines because of our relative success in containing the virus.”

David is also a member of the New Zealand Government’s vaccine strategy advisory group. This group advise on plans to source, manufacture and distribute any vaccine developed to New Zealanders.

David is a member of Te Papa Hauora’s Advisory Council.