Melbourne researchers first to grow and share novel coronavirus

By on 23 March, 2020

An image of the corona virus responsible for causing the disease COVID-19. Image: CSIRO.

Researchers at the Doherty Institute in Victoria were the first in the world to grow and share the novel coronavirus 2019 from a patient sample.

Scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity grew the virus from a patient sample in late January 2020, the first time it was grown in a cell culture outside China.

Dr. Julian Druce, Virus Identification Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, said that this achievement would greatly assist diagnosis and study of the virus globally.

“Chinese officials released the genome sequence of this novel coronavirus, which is helpful for diagnosis, however, having the real virus means we now have the ability to actually validate and verify all test methods, and compare their sensitivities and specificities – it will be a game changer for diagnosis,” he said.

“The virus will be used as positive control material for the Australian network of public health laboratories, and also shipped to expert laboratories working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe.”

The sample has been shared internationally since, and has informed study of the virus at the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, whose researchers believe they will be ready to start testing pre-clinical vaccine candidates for Covid-19 — including the ‘molecular clamp’ vaccine developed at the University of Queensland.

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