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14 Dec 2021

Victoria recognises sustained excellence and early-career potential among science and innovation leaders

Dr Marios Koutsakos from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology (DMI) at the Doherty Institute has today been awarded a prestigious Victoria Fellowship.

He is one of 12 Victoria Fellows in 2021 who will benefit from the funding to re-establish international connections following the pandemic.

The Victorian Government has proudly supported Victoria’s most prestigious awards for science and innovation since 1998, delivering them in partnership with veski since 2013.

Dr Koutsakos will receive a Victoria Fellowship worth $18,000, one of 12 awarded to an early-career researchers to support them in undertaking international study to advance their work in global settings, which will contribute to longer term growth of Victoria’s research and innovation capabilities.

“The fellowship will allow me to visit Washington University in St, Louis (USA) and collaborate with a team there to study human immune responses to influenza and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines,” Dr Koutsakos said.

“The team I will be working with collects samples from lymphoid tissues (like the lymph node and the bone marrow) which provides for unique opportunity to better understand how vaccines work.”

Dr Koutsakos says this will provide a great opportunity for him to strengthen collaborative links with leading immunologists in America. He thanked the Victorian Government and said he was incredibly grateful for the unique opportunity the Victoria Fellowship provided him.

Dr Koutsakos completed his PhD studies with Professor Katherine Kedzierska in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, at the Doherty Institute.

His career has seen him focusing on understanding protective immunity to influenza viruses, especially the understudied but clinically relevant influenza B viruses.

Dr Koutsakos is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Kent Group led by Professor Stephen Kent. He spoke about his career in a recent Doherty Institute website news story where he described what attracted him to science.

“I was always curious about biology. As an undergraduate at Imperial College, London, I became fascinated by immunology and viruses,’ he said.

“Partly by chance, I found myself working with Professor Wendy Barclay, who shared her infectious passion about influenza viruses (pun intended). I was amazed by how something so small and relatively simple, when compared to humans, can take over our bodies. Through a series of unlikely but very fortunate events, I then found myself 16000 kilometres further away at the Kedzierska lab at the Doherty Institute, where I became fascinated by human immunology and the complexity of the immune system.”

Dr Koutsakos said the Victoria Fellowship will enable him to get specialised training in human immunology which he will then bring back to Victoria and, hopefully, apply to local vaccine development. I

“I am incredibly excited and honoured to receive the Fellowship and about the opportunity and the learning experiences I will get.”

The Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford said the Victorian Government had proudly supported Victoria’s most prestigious awards for science and innovation since 1998, delivering them in partnership with veski since 2013.

“Congratulations to the 2021 Victoria Prize recipients for their outstanding contributions to research and innovation,” Minister Pulford said

“Victoria is home to some of the world’s leading researchers and brightest minds. The Victorian Government is committed to nurturing our homegrown talent by making record investments in innovation and supporting researchers to turn their ideas into breakthroughs and products that improve and save lives here and around the world.”