A new COVID-19 vaccine developed in South Australia and administered with a needle-free device is to begin human trials.

Designed by University of Adelaide researchers the DNA vaccine also targets the Omicron variant of the virus and can be adapted for future variants.

DNA vaccines require simple engineering design modifications that can be made quickly to adapt to new strains.

It is being manufactured in SA at the BioCina facility in Adelaide.

Lead investigator Branka Grubor-Bauk, head of viral immunology at the University of Adelaide’s Medical School, is calling for volunteers over 18 who were triple vaccinated more than three months ago and have not had COVID-19, to join the trial.

“We need to continue developing next-generation COVID-19 vaccines because the virus will continue to mutate, particularly in countries with low vaccination rates and high rates of uncontrolled transmission,” Associate Professor Grubor-Bauk said.

“As we live with COVID-19, we still have vulnerable populations at risk of severe disease.

“It is vitally important to evaluate variant-specific booster vaccines.”

The vaccine will be administered using a needle-free device from American company Pharmajet which delivers a micro-jet spray of liquid, which goes under the skin and is painless.

It can also be shipped at room temperature, stored for five years and manufactured in existing facilities.

SA Pathology Clinical Immunologist Pravin Hissaria said the development of highly effective vaccines remained the most effective strategy in containing COVID-19.

“It is important that we continue to innovate and adapt to the evolving viral strains and deliver precise and effective vaccines,” Associate Professor Hissaria said.

The Hospital Research Foundation Group has been funding the vaccine research, with chief executive Paul Flynn hailing its speedy development.

“This trial will ultimately determine if the vaccine is safe, but I encourage South Australians interested in participating to put their trust in a respected, safe, peer-reviewed team.”

The human trials are due to begin this week.

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