Teamwork leads to excellent results

When Professor Michael Good first arrived at Griffith University seven years ago he never imagined that a vaccine to protect against the nasty Streptococcus A infection would already be at pharmaceutical development stage.

But with the support of Vice Chancellor Ian O’Connor, Institute for Glycomics Director Professor Mark von Itzstein and a remarkable research team working in the Institute’s Laboratory for Vaccines for the Developing World, the NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow was able to raise hope for millions.

Professor Good’s team’s outstanding work led to a major translational outcome for the Institute in 2016, with the signing of a significant licensing agreement with major international vaccine manufacturing company, Olymvax Biopharmaceuticals in China. It is for this achievement they have been recognised with the Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award for a research group or team.

Their needle-free vaccine targets Streptococcus A infections, the cause of strep throat and rheumatic heart disease.

Globally it is estimated that at least 18.1 million people are currently affected by rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, with 500,000 deaths each year. Invasive group A streptococcus kills about 20 per cent of patients within seven days of infection.

Market timeframe

The lab’s team of more than 10 researchers could potentially see a vaccine in the market within the next six to eight years.

“It’s very important to have both the basic discovery research and the applied and translational aspect of vaccine orientated research in our team,” Professor Good said.

“The university, the VC and Mark, as well as the commercial arm of the university, have all been very supportive of my role at Griffith and that makes a big difference because it allows us to move with confidence.

“I didn’t know back then (when I arrived) we would make such rapid progress to get to clinical trials. I thought it would take much longer or may not happen at all. You must have everyone in the team doing their bit and it requires a lot of coordination getting everything together.”

Professor von Itzstein congratulated the team on their fantastic achievements.

“The research that led up to this outcome required a team effort and is a perfect example of the scale, commitment and multidisciplinary approaches that are required to translate basic science into investment-ready pre-clinical research,” he said.