Australia's national science agency will lead a $1.7 million effort to rapidly screen treatments for COVID-19.
Scientists at the CSIRO are aiming to have three suitable drug candidates progress to human clinical trials within a year.
CSIRO scientist and project leader Dr Seshadri Vasan said alongside vaccines there was an urgent need for safe, effective and affordable treatments that specifically targeted the virus.
"A great strategy to find potential COVID-19 treatments is to repurpose drugs already approved for other diseases, but the current methods to do this are expensive, time-consuming and not fit-for-purpose," Dr Vasan said in a statement on Thursday.
Researchers at the CSIRO's Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in Geelong will use four types of human tissues - lower respiratory tract, lung, neural and cardiac tissues.
Barwon Health's Director of Infectious Diseases and project collaborator, Professor Eugene Athan, said the neural and cardiac tissues "are highly relevant because this disease is now known to cause neurologic disorders, heart dysfunction and damage in some patients".
The scientists will use a biomedical approach to understand the bigger picture and machine learning methods to differentiate between healthy and diseased states of tissue to see if a drug can reliably restore diseased tissue.
The federal government provided $1 million of the funding and the remainder has been provided by the CSIRO.
The project will build on an ongoing collaboration on the long-term impacts of COVID-19 between Barwon Health, the CSIRO and Deakin University through the Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Australian Associated Press
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