The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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

19 Jun 2020

NHMRC Investigator Grants 2020 | Understanding immune responses to influenza with Dr Oanh Nguyen

Awarded May 2020 for a period of five years

Project

Understanding immune responses to severe influenza virus infection and vaccination in humans

Context

It’s been more than 100 years since the Spanish influenza pandemic where a staggering 40 million people died, however influenza viruses remain a constant global health threat. In fact, a global influenza pandemic is listed on the World Health Organisation’s list of Ten Threats to Global Health in 2019 at number three. There is an urgent need for improved influenza vaccines, immunotherapies and biomarkers, especially for populations at high risk.

This research will take transformative steps to define broadly protective immunity to influenza A and B viruses (IAV, IBV) to provide a more effective vaccination regime. It will determine mechanisms underlying mild versus severe influenza disease, with the intent of improving therapeutic approaches and predictive biomarkers to protect against influenza, along with possible application to other infectious diseases and cancers.

“My work defines immune responses generated in unique cohorts of patients hospitalized with severe influenza disease and influenza-vaccinated individuals, particularly those at high-risk of severe and fatal disease,” said Dr Oanh Nguyen.

“We know that for some populations within the community, such as the young, elderly, immunosuppressed and Indigenous populations, influenza viruses can be critical.”

The primary aim of this research is to define the aspects of human immunity necessary for protective responses against seasonal, pandemic and emerging influenza viruses in humans. Dr Nguyen will investigate influenza-specific immunity following influenza virus infections or vaccination, contrast immune responses and research the success of immunity through vaccination when compared to vaccine failures to understand rapid recovery and severe disease.

“This grant will support me to understand the mechanisms of why some people respond to vaccination while others fail, even after repeated annual vaccinations.”

“I’m grateful for the support of my supervisor, Professor Katherine Kedzierska, who’s played a pivotal role in my success, to the NHMRC for this opportunity, and the world-class team I work alongside at the

Dr Oanh Nguyen with cryopreserved influenza-infected samples
Dr Oanh Nguyen with cryopreserved influenza-infected samples

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