The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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

29 May 2020

NHMRC Investigator Grants 2020 | Understanding immunity to influenza B with Dr Marios Koutsakos

Awarded May 2020 for a period of five years.

Project

Understanding immunity to influenza B viruses for a rationally designed universal vaccine.

Context

While some people consider influenza a relatively minor illness, it leads to devastating cases of disease and death globally each year.

It’s estimated that seasonal epidemics caused by influenza A and B viruses (IAV and IBV) result in 3 to 5 million cases of severe disease and between 290,000-650,000 deaths each year. Specifically, IBV accounts for almost a quarter of influenza infections per season and, in some years, this can increase as high as 82%.

Importantly, the majority of these infections occur in children, where IBV can sometimes cause severe muscular, neurological and cardiovascular complications and, in some cases, death.

In addition to the human toll, IBV costs billions of dollars each year through influenza-associated healthcare costs. Clearly, the global cost of influenza each year is high.

Despite the clinical and socioeconomic burden of IBV, it is significantly understudied.

“This proposal will markedly improve our understanding of how IBV and the human immune system interact,” said Dr Marios Koutsakos.

“This grant will enable me to undertake cutting-edge research into the immune response to IBV,” said Dr Marios Koutsakos.

With Professor Kedzierska and our local and international collaborators, Dr Koutsakos will dissect the immunological mechanisms that provide immunity and protection in unique human cohorts and animal models in order to inform the design of a universal vaccine.

“A deeper understudying of the underlying immunology to IBV is instrumental in designing novel vaccines rationally, as opposed to the empirical approach that has surrounded vaccine design to date.”

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