The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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


08 Oct 2020

Million dollar MRFF boost for understanding COVID-19 immunology

Research into developing a greater understanding of the immune response to COVID-19 has received a significant boost with a million dollar Medical Research Future Fund Grant.

The two-year project, led by University of Melbourne Professor Katherine Kedzierska, a laboratory head and world-leading influenza researcher aims to define protective and long-lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and find out why some people develop more severe COVID-19 than others.

“This builds on work published in Nature Medicine in March 2020 where we mapped immune responses from one of Australia’s first COVID-19 patients, showing the immune system’s ability to fight the virus and recover from the infection,” Professor Kedzierska said.

“In addition, published in Nature Medicine in July, Dr Jennifer Juno and team were able to describe immune response to COVID-19’s spike protein – important information for future validation of vaccine candidates.

“Our in-depth immune studies in wide ranging cohorts will provide key insights into the rational design of vaccines and therapies to limit disease spread and protect high-risk groups.”

This project combines three themes to address current knowledge gaps in COVID-19 immunity:

  1. Determine immunological correlates of recovery and protection to inform the rational design and evaluation of protective long-lasting vaccines.
  2. Define early predictive markers of severe disease and potential targets for COVID-19 immunotherapies.
  3. Understand the mechanisms underlying severe COVID-19 in high-risk groups, including patients with co-mordities (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer), elderly, pregnant women and Indigenous Australians.

An internationally-recognised team of immunologists, virologist and infectious disease experts have been assembled, predominantly from the Doherty Institute but also from Monash University, Menzies School of Health Research, University of New South Wales, Central Queensland University, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Fudan University and Flinders University.

“More than 36 million people have been infected, over one million people have died from and economies have been paralysed due to COVID-19. Substantial efforts are urgently needed to better understand the immunology, human and viral factors underpinning this devastating virus,” Professor Kedzierska said.