Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics has been awarded $2.66 million in Ideas Grant funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to aid four vital research projects.
Director Professor Mark von Itzstein AO was delighted with the grant awards and said they cemented the Institute’s reputation as a leading biomedical research institute.
“Our institute is focussed on translational research outcomes that diagnose, prevent and treat diseases of global impact. These grants will significantly assist our researchers to deliver on our mission to achieve a disease-free world.”
Professor Michael Jennings and Dr Christopher Day were awarded $608,424.50 for the project titled ‘Structure and biophysical analysis aided design of novel toxoid vaccines for a major class of bacterial toxins’ with Dr Victor Torres, New York University.
“Cholesterol dependent cytolysins (CDCs) are bacterial toxins produced by many important human pathogens including Group A Streptococcus (Strep A) and Pneumococcus,” Professor Jennings said.
Strep A infections cause a range of diseases including pharyngitis, Scarlet fever and necrotising fasciitis. If left untreated, they can also lead to rheumatic fever, reactive arthritis and rheumatic heart disease.
“We have developed an innovative way of inactivating CDCs based on new knowledge of how they target human cells and will use this knowledge, and this vital funding, to facilitate the development of novel vaccines.”
Associate Professor Kate Seib was awarded $826,490 for the project titled ‘Gonococcal vaccine development guided by a cross-protective meningococcal vaccine’ with Dr Caroline Thng, Gold Coast Health.
“Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria responsible for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea, causes more than 100 million new infections each year and is an urgent public health threat,” Associate Professor Seib said.
“Control of gonorrhoea depends on the development of a vaccine due to the continuing increase of antibiotic resistance and the staggering outcomes of infection, including infertility and increased transmission of HIV.
“We know the bacteria causing gonorrhoea and meningococcal B disease are very similar, and our preliminary studies indicate that a widely licensed meningococcal vaccine, 4CMenB, induced antibodies that cross react with gonorrhoea.
“This grant will allow us to further investigate if the meningococcal vaccine can protect against gonorrhoea and determine the gonococcal antigens and type of immune response needed to mediate protection against gonorrhoea, thus guiding the development of a gonococcal vaccine.”
Dr Mehfuz Zaman was awarded $707,717 for the project titled ‘Vaccine to prevent Influenza Virus and Bacterial super-infection’ with Associate Professor Victor Huber, University of South Dakota.
“Patients with viral infections of the upper respiratory tract involving the influenza virus can sometimes develop further bacterial infections such as those caused by Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A streptococcus), as well as other types of bacterial pathogen,” Dr Zaman said.
“Known as ‘super-infections’, the severity of such bacterial infections is significantly increased despite the availability of influenza vaccines, antiviral treatments, and antibiotics.
“This grant will help facilitate the development of a novel multi-pathogen vaccine candidate against major upper respiratory tract pathogens – Influenza A and bacterial pathogens responsible for super-infections.”
Dr Freda Jen and Dr Milton Kiefel were awarded $526,949.60 for the project titled ‘Targeting a bacterial glyco-Achilles heel to make new vaccines for Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria gonorrhoeae’.
“Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea. Haemophilus influenzae is responsible for diseases such as middle ear infections in children, sinusitis in adults, and acute bronchitis in individuals, and is the major cause of exacerbations of chronic obstructive lung disease. Unfortunately, these two pathogens are becoming increasingly multi-drug resistant,” Dr Jen said.
“These diseases are a major health and economic burden, and in the absence of new drugs, a vaccine to prevent these diseases has emerged as a major unmet need in human health.
“This grant will enable us to develop a new vaccine that targets a bacterial-specific sugar that we have discovered is the Achilles heel of these bacteria.”