Four ways Australia is working with global partners to fight COVID-19

October 2nd, 2020

Understanding and fighting COVID-19 requires an all-hands-in approach. From vaccine support to data analytics, we’re working with our global partners to fight COVID-19. While countries and states have been forced to close their borders, scientists across the world have been opening theirs. And researchers have acknowledged this kind of global collaboration is unprecedented.

Here are four ways we’re fighting the pandemic with our global partners.

We’re working on a number of ways to fight COVID-19 both nationally and internationally.

1. Vaccine testing

There is usually a linear process for vaccine development that can take up to 10 years. This was not going to be fast enough for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Besides working with The University of Queensland (UQ) and commercial manufacturers CSL to scale-up and produce their vaccine candidate, we’re also working with global partners on preclinical testing.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), headquartered in Oslo, Norway, tasked us with studying the virus that causes COVID-19. They also asked us to conduct preclinical trials for two vaccine candidates from Oxford University in the United Kingdom and Inovio Pharmaceuticals in the United States.

The trials took place at our Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) earlier this year. Early data from the trials has been shared with CEPI and the vaccine developers Oxford and Inovio to enable them to progress on to clinical (human) trials.

Hear more commentary from our COVID-19 experts.

2. Big data and Indonesia partnership

Moving to southeast Asia, we’re working with Indonesian research partners to strengthen their pandemic preparedness. We’re doing this by using big data, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. We’re creating a tool to identify, monitor and provide alerts on virus clusters in the country. This will help officials understand where and how an infection may spread.

The tool will provide Indonesia with valuable real-time insights and predictions on COVID-19. It will show how a community is placed to respond and where to direct testing, medical resources and social assistance. It will also help develop strong data-informed strategies to prepare for, combat and recover from current and future pandemics.

Our Data61 team is collaborating with Pulse Lab Jakarta on the project. Pulse Lab Jakarta is a joint data facility of the United Nations and the Government of Indonesia. It’s supported by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

We will draw on our knowledge to help Indonesia in its response to COVID-19. That’s one way we’re working with our global partners to fight COVID-19.

3. Identifying infection hotspots

Our Data61 team is also collaborating with Pacific Data Hub. We’re helping to publish COVID-19 data to identify infection hotspots in the Pacific region. The interactive platform, PacificMap, provides users with a visual of the infection hotspots in various countries. It shows the number of confirmed, active, recovered and fatal cases. It identifies the longitude and latitude of the specific area, which can enable targeted local responses.

The data comes from the John Hopkins University.

4. Using AI to help Vietnam’s economy

If the pandemic wasn’t enough, Vietnam’s economy – which has transformed one of the world’s poorest nations into a lower middle-income country over the last 30 years – is suffering from the global recession. The Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) wanted to a tech solution to help support the country’s economic recovery and continued social development. So, we’re working with them and the DFAT to introduce businesses, government and researchers to artificial intelligence (AI) solution.

MoST has come up with a series of forums to share experiences on using AI technology to transform businesses and address challenges in key sectors like health and environmental management. A hackathon and a National AI Strategy will follow. In the short-term, the work aims to stimulate innovative AI solutions to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. In the longer term, Vietnam’s AI strategy and training courses will help for stakeholders in the AI ecosystem fuel Vietnam’s next period of economic growth.

Working with our global partners to fight COVID-19 means we can combine our capabilities to better protect the health of our people and tackle this crisis together.