The organisation said work was progressing at its high-containment biosecurity facility, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory which is situated in Geelong, about 100km from Melbourne.
A statekent from the CSIRO said had been engaged by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness in January to start working on the vaccine. The CSIRO and CEPI became partners last year.
The CEPI, working in co-ordination with the World Health Organisation, has identified vaccine candidates from the University of Oxford in the UK and Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the US to be the first to undergo pre=clinical trials at the CSIRO's Geelong facility.
Scientists starting to test vaccines for COVID-19 at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Courtesy CSIRO
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “Beginning vaccine candidate testing at CSIRO is a critical milestone in the fight against COVID-19, made possible by collaboration both within Australia and across the globe.
“CSIRO researchers are working around-the-clock to combat this disease which is affecting so many. Whether it’s at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory or at our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility, we will keep working until this viral enemy is defeated.”.
Apart from the testing of the vaccines for their effectiveness, the CSIRO said it was also looking at the best way of administering them, whether through an intra-muscular injection or as a nasal spray.
AAHL director Professor Trevor Drew, who is leading CSIRO’s COVID-19 virus and vaccine work, said: “We have been studying SARS CoV-2 since January and getting ready to test the first vaccine candidates as soon as they are available.
"We are carefully balancing operating at speed with the critical need for safety in response to this global public health emergency.”
The AAHL is the only high biocontainment facility in the southern hemisphere and its scientists work with highly dangerous and exotic pathogens, including diseases that transfer from animals to people.
Dr Marshall added: “Tackling disease and supporting better health outcomes takes a one-health approach.
“In 2016, CSIRO created the Health and Biosecurity research group who work with our scientists at AAHL to tackle our national and international health and biosecurity challenges together, so we can better protect the health of our people, environment, agriculture and industries and our way of life.
“This, combined with our data science and manufacturing capability in our biological production facility, means we were well prepared to help Australia in One Health with disease identification, prevention and management, to deliver the real world solutions that our nation expects from science.”