Australian researchers are tasked with forming a clearer picture of the deadly new coronavirus in order to pave the way for testing potential vaccines.
The CSIRO has been asked by a global group that aims to derail epidemics to help determine the key characteristics of the virus.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations wants to know how long the virus takes to develop and replicate, how it affects the respiratory system and how it is transmitted.
The CSIRO will conduct the research at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, a high-containment facility in Victoria's Geelong.
It is the only physical containment laboratory of its kind in Australia and one of just five in the world.
Once they know more about the virus, which has killed more than 200 people in China where it surfaced, CSIRO scientists can begin testing vaccines developed by a CEPI-led consortium.
"Our role is to take the knowledge that we will be gaining from how this virus behaves and then creating the biological platforms that are necessary for developing and trialling vaccine candidates," CSIRO Director of Health and Biosecurity Rob Grenfell told reporters.
It is hoped a vaccine could be developed in 16 weeks and it will first be trialled on ferrets.
The consortium - which includes the CSIRO and the University of Queensland - was established in hopes of speeding up the time taken to develop potential vaccines from years to weeks.
The development comes two days after researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne became the first scientists to recreate the virus outside China.
The lab-grown virus, which was developed from the first patient diagnosed in Australia, will help with accurately diagnosing the disease around the world.
The CSIRO says it is collaborating with the Peter Doherty Institute and the University of Queensland, where trials are underway to develop a vaccine.
The coronavirus death toll has risen to 213 and the World Health Organisation has declared the disease a public health emergency.
The total number of people infected in Australia rose to nine after two new cases were confirmed on Thursday evening.
© AAP 2020