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09 Sep 2020

Paul Ramsay Foundation donation to advance COVID-19 passive immunisation program

Crucial research into the development of a passive immunisation program for COVID-19 has been bolstered by the allocation of $2 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

The donation was received in March 2020 as part of a generous $4 million commitment in funding from the Foundation to support the Doherty Institute’s COVID-19 research activities, with $2 million directed toward COVID-19 Indigenous research through APPRISE (Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies).

Passive immunisation is a strategy that involves the direct transfer of antibodies to a non-immune person to provide temporary protection from COVID-19. It could play a vital role in specific clinical situations where the risk of transmission is high, including healthcare settings and in vulnerable populations.

The funding will support a range of passive immunisation strategy activities, including:

  • Supporting the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Biologics program that is designed to streamline discovery and screening of antibodies/nanobodies into pre-clinical animal studies, in partnership with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, CSL and Monash University. Funding will be equally allocated to four Doherty Institute investigators: Dr Adam Wheatley, Professor Dale Godfrey, Professor Stephen Kent and Dr Amy Chung.
  • High resolution mass spectrometry to determine antibody affinity to SARS-COV2, led by Professor Jim McCluskey and Professor Tom Gordon.
  • Purchase of an Octet Red96 instrument for antibody characterisation and screening.
  • Expansion of a biobank of sera and cells from patients recovering from COVID-19, led by Professor Deborah Williamson.
  • The establishment of a human infection challenge clinical trial facility led by Professor James McCarthy.

Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, said that the program addresses a significant research gap into COVID-19 passive immunisation through its multipronged approach.

“COVID-19 can be devastating in specific clinical situations, as we’ve seen in Australia and in other countries across the world,” Professor Lewin said.

“Passive immunisation has the potential to offer protection to healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, their family contacts and vulnerable groups – including people in aged care facilities, residential facilities or prisons.

“The generous support from the Paul Ramsay Foundation is accelerating critical research that has the potential to make a real difference in these populations in response to COVID-19,” she said.

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