In the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, scientists at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity became the first outside China to copy the virus.

Now, that virus, grown from a swab from an infected patient, has headed over to the CSIRO’s high-security animal testing facility in Geelong, where scientists will try to learn more about how the virus spreads in hopes of hastening the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

“Currently, there are about 230 potential treatments for the new coronavirus being trialled around the world,” Prof Bill Rawlinson from NSW Health Pathology and the University of New South Wales told the ABC. “By having the live virus, we can test the antivirals in a test tube, which means we can get some idea of which ones might be working against this virus and which ones to take forward into trials.”

 University of Queensland researchers have expressed confidence in their ability to create a small batch of a coronavirus vaccine to treat cases that arise in Australia. The copying of the virus will help those efforts, and CSIRO’s Geelong facility is one of few places in the world where diseases such as coronavirus can be safely handled.

Whilst there were no cases of SARS in Australia during the 2003 outbreak, there are now 150 million more instances of people traveling from China to Australia annually now than there were then, the Doherty Institute’s Dr Mike Catton told the ABC.

University of Hong Kong researchers told the South China Morning Post that they have made a coronavirus vaccine but that it could take a year before testing begins on animals, and at least another year for human trials.

With the number of cases topping 8000 in mainland China and cases popping up in several other countries around the world, an effective coronavirus vaccine can’t come soon enough.