14 Dec 2022
VC2 Research Grants awarded to accelerate COVID-19 research
Four Victorian researchers were successfully awarded grants from the Victorian Critical Vaccinees Collection (VC2) COVID-19 Research Seed Funding program, giving them access to both funds and research samples from the VC2 biobank.
Established at the Doherty Institute, the VC2 is a biospecimen collection of samples from people vaccinated against pandemic diseases such as COVID-19 and mpox in Victoria. The aim of the biobank is to facilitate investigations into the impact of pandemic vaccines in a variety of Victorians.
The VC2 COVID-19 Research Seed Funding Grant round attracted applications from diverse researchers across Victoria.
The VC2 Scientific Review Committee conducted a robust review and selection process which included community review and involvement. This process preferenced Early Career Researchers within 10 years post-PhD.
Clinical lead for the VC2 and Head of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program at Austin Health, Associate Professor Janine Trevillyan sees the grants as a great opportunity.
“Sourcing samples from the VC2 can accelerate lab investigations on the impact of COVID vaccines since the samples and participant data are already collected,” Associate Professor Trevillyan says.
“These grants are a fantastic demonstration of the value the VC2 biobank which is able to provide high-quality samples for quite diverse projects.”
The researchers will have access to over 8,600 samples drawn from participants in the general population as well as different target groups including those with past COVID infections, immunosuppression and people living with HIV.
“We are thrilled that these four excellent projects will be able to make good use of the VC2 samples, taking advantage of the generosity of the more than 200 donors who have contributed to the VC2 sample collection,” Associate Professor Trevillyan says.
The Scientific Review Committee was impressed with the quality of applications and extends its congratulations to all successful applicants and looks forward to seeing the outcomes in due course.
The successful applications are:
Dr Yi (David) Ju (RMIT)
‘Exploring COVID-19 mRNA vaccine-induced PEG immunogenicity’
Dr Ju’s project aims to better understand vaccine-induced anti-PEG immunity, which is the first step to improving vaccine long-term safety and efficacy. PEG (Polyethylene glycol) is used in COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. The findings from this study will provide insights for developing next-generation mRNA vaccines to overcome PEG immunogenicity.
Dr Kevin Selva (Doherty Institute)
‘Influence of antibody host genetics and imprinting upon COVID-19 immunity in the elderly’
Dr Selva’s study seeks to identify factors affecting antibody-mediated immunity that still leave the COVID-19-vaccinated elderly population vulnerable to severe disease and death. The project will shed light on SARS-CoV-2-specific humoral features impacted by advancing age and identify risk factors which could then be applied in future to screen the elderly in Australia for vulnerabilities against breakthrough COVID-19 infections.
Dr Victoria Hall (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre)
‘Matched cohort study to assess prevention of COVID-19 in patients with haematological malignancy who have received pre-exposure prophylaxis with Evusheld (Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab), the CO-EVALUATE study’
In this study, Dr Hall and team will compare the immune response to COVID-19 in blood cancer patients who have had Evusheld (a long-acting monoclonal antibody developed to protect vulnerable people against COVID-19) with healthy controls from the VC2 biobank.
Professor Eugene Athan (Barwon Health/Deakin University)
‘Inflammatory cytokine profiles in a Victorian long-term cohort of patients recovered from SARS CoV-2 compared to a vaccinated control group’
Professor Athan’s project will compare the immune response in people who are recovering from a COVID-19 infection before vaccination was available to them and those who have not had COVID-19 but have been vaccinated. This work will allow the team to identify potential biomarkers and mechanisms of long COVID through possible changes in inflammatory cytokine profiles, which in turn may unlock better understanding of the Long COVID syndrome and could lead to new treatments and/or targeted preventative measures.