A team led by an Indian-origin scientist in Australia SS Vasan has grown the first batch of the virus in a laboratory to create a vaccine against the deadly novel coronavirus (nCov), which has claimed more than 600 lives in China and infected 30,000 others.
Chinese health officials said on Friday that the death toll from coronavirus had risen to 636 on the mainland with 69 new deaths reported until Thursday midnight.
More than 31,000 are now infected with the disease across China with Hubei reporting 2447 new cases on Thursday; the central Chinese province alone now has 22,112 cases.
This first batch of the virus was developed in a high-security lab at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s leading scientific agency, by SS Vasan and his team.
Vasan’s team got a from the major breakthrough at Melbourne’s Doherty Institute, where scientists grew a sample of coronavirus in the lab. Researchers at Doherty Institute were able to isolate the virus from a human sample.
CSIRO’s work is of high importance as it takes a high scale to conduct preclinical trials.
“Undertaken at our secure Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) high-containment facility, our research will help to determine the characteristics of the current virus – a key step in developing a new vaccine,” CSIRO said in a statement.
“The research aims to paint a clearer picture of the new coronavirus, including how long it takes to develop and replicate, how it impacts on the respiratory system and how it can be transmitted,” it added.
A Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford, Vasan is an alumnus of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani and Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
Vasan has also worked on dengue, zika and chikungunya prior to nCov.
Reports said that CSIRO scientists are aiming to hit a 16-week deadline to test a vaccine for the coronavirus on humans, with any vaccine first tested on ferrets.
The viral outbreak is believed to have originated in central China late last year and now more than 240 cases have emerged in two dozen countries.
Local governments across China have locked down cities of tens of millions of people in response to the crisis.