The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

EDUCATION

Research Projects

Project: Understanding protective immunity against severe respiratory disease during immunologically distinct phases of human lifespan

Kedzierska group

Hospitalisation rates and mortality from influenza or COVID-19 are increased in high-risk groups, especially when new viruses emerge. There is a need for vaccines which generate immunity across viral strains that protect vulnerable populations. Long-lasting immunity can be elicited by killer T cells recognising conserved viral regions. This project forms a part of a large-scale study aimed at designing and assembling a universal T cell-based influenza and/or COVID-19 vaccine.

It is well known that children 0–4 yrs are highly susceptible to influenza due to the immaturity of their immune systems. In contrast, children 5–14 yrs are more protected from severe influenza disease, as illustrated by the Alaskan school-aged orphans, who survived the 1918-H1N1 influenza while adults died. Following SARS-CoV-2 infection, children also display milder disease. In contrast, elderly have higher infection rates and more severe disease attributed to declining immunity, reflective of both immune dysfunction and T cells immunosenescence as well as dysregulated innate immunity. As the mechanisms underlying disease outcomes across the human lifespan are largely unknown, applying our immunological analyses will inevitably yield new insights. Our studies to date defined exciting new markers underpinning immune responses towards respiratory diseases during immunologically distinct phases of human lifespan. In this project, these novel markers will be analysed at the greatest level of resolution using cutting-edge cellular and molecular mechanisms. The availability of our unique patient cohorts, combined with our access to state-of the art technology and specialized expertise provides an outstanding opportunity to identify immunological and host factors that inform new immunotherapy protocols and provide biomarkers for clinical studies aimed at reducing respiratory disease impact in high-risk groups, especially elderly. Understanding the key parameters that lead to severe disease in high-risk groups will provide insight into how immune interventions might minimise the incidence of severe disease following infection with respiratory diseases.

Contact project supervisor for further
information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Professor Katherine Kedzierska

Project Co-supervisor

Dr Carolien van de Sandt

Project availability
PhD/MPhil
Master of Biomedical Science
Honours

Kedzierska group

kkedz@unimelb.edu.au

2 vacancies

Themes
Immunology
Viral Infectious Diseases
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Discovery Research
Indigenous Health
Translational and Clinical Research

The Kedzierska Group has a strong international profile in human immunology, with a major focus on universal broadly-protective T cell immunity to seasonal, pandemic and avian influenza viruses as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our main goal is to identify key protective correlates of recovery from severe respiratory disease in high-risk groups, including children and the elderly, and to understand mechanisms underlying generation of optimal immunity to respiratory infections. In particular, we are interested in generating long-lasting immunity elicited by killer T-cells recognising conserved viral regions. Our work intends to improve vaccine and therapeutic designs to protect against severe viral infections, including influenza and COVID-19, with possible applications to other infectious diseases and tumours.