The development of a second-generation COVID-19 vaccine that will provide long-lasting immunity and withstand new and emerging variants and new therapies to treat anaemia of chronic disease are two of the Griffith University projects awarded National Health and Medical Research Funding.

Announced by the Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt, the Ideas Grants projects will contribute to vital health and medical research.

Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Sheena Reilly said the funding highlights the exemplary work conducted by the University’s researchers in addressing major societal health challenges.

“These projects have the potential to make a significant difference to people’s health and wellbeing. I congratulate all staff who have contributed to these efforts.”

Professor Des Richardson

Professor Des Richardson (Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Sciences) awarded $638,288 for the project ‘Novel Hormone Analogues as an Innovative Endocrinological Intervention for the Anaemia of Chronic Disease’.

Project Team: (CIB) Tomas Ganz (University of California Los Angeles); (AI) Daniel Kolarich (Griffith University); (AI) David Frazer (The Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research); (AI) V. Nathan Subramaniam (Queensland University of Technology); (AI) David Craik (The University of Queensland); (AI) Gregory Anderson (The Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research); (AI) Richard Clark (The University of Queensland).

“The second most-common anaemia, Anaemia of Chronic Disease affects more than 80% of hospitalised patients suffering infections, malignancy and inflammation and causes significant morbidity,’’ Professor Richardson said.

“ACD is predominantly caused by an excessive production of hormone hepcidin which regulates iron metabolism. We recently designed a treatment that will allow gut iron absorption that corrects the deadly anaemia of ACD.”

Dr Manisha Pandey

Dr Manisha Pandey (Institute for Glycomics) awarded $1,211,034 for the project ‘COMBAT – A Combination B-and T-Cell Epitope Vaccine to Futureproof COVID-19 Vaccine’.

Project Team:(CIB) Irina Caminschi (Monash University);(CIC) Penny Rudd (Griffith University); (AI) Gavin Painter (Victoria University of Wellington); (AI) Colin Pouton (Monash University);(AI) Michael Good (Griffith University); (AI) William Heath (University of Melbourne); (AI) Stephanie Gras (La Trobe University); (AI) Fan Fan (Olymvax Biopharmaceuticals Inc);(AI) Mark von Itzstein (Griffith University);(AI) Ailin Lepletier de Oliveira (Griffith University); (AI) John Gerrard (Gold Coast University Hospital).

“Despite the success of COVID-9 vaccination programs, the emergence of virus mutants threatens to undermine their effectiveness,’’ Dr Pandey said.

“Our aim is to design a vaccine with protective B and T-cell epitopes from the SARS-CoV2 spike protein that will broaden the immune response, reduce adverse events and allow for “vaccine updates” to accommodate emerging variants of concern.

“The vaccine will provide proof-of-concept for future-proofing COVID-19 vaccines.”

Professor Chamindie Punyadeera

Professor Chamindie Punyadeera, recruited from QUT as a joint appointment within Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, was also successful, securing $763,417 for the project ‘Multi-analyte liquid biopsy-based biomarkers for oropharyngeal cancer’.

Project Team:(CIB) Lizbeth Kenny (Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital); (CIC) Sharath Sriram (RMIT University); (CID) Brett Hughes (Department of Health QLD); (CIE) Paul Leo (Queensland University of Technology); (CIF) Ian Papautsky (University of Illinois at Chicago); (AI) MAJID Ebrahimi Warkiani (University of Technology Sydney); (AI) Touraj Taheri (Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital); (AI) Rahul Ladwa (Metro South Hospital and Health Service); (AI) Riccardo Dolcetti (University of Melbourne); (AI) Gunter Hartel (The Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research); (AI) Nadia Rosin (Beyond Five); (AI) Samuel Dowthwaite (Gold Coast University Hospital); (AI) Ian Frazer (The University of Queensland); (AI) Cheryl Kelly (Metro South Hospital and Health Service); (AI) Sarju Vasani (Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital).

“Throat cancer affects people at a relatively young age, who often go on to suffer from long-term treatment related morbidities,’’ Professor Punyadeera said.

“In addition, 20% of throat cancers reoccur but current methods for detecting recurrence at an early and potentially salvageable stage are invasive and poor. There is a desire to reduce the intensity of treatment to lessen severe side effects as well as to monitor treatment response.

“We propose to use non-invasive, novel liquid biomarkers to address these unmet clinical
needs, thereby improving quality of life for cancer patients and significantly cutting healthcare costs.”

3: Good Health and Well-being
UN Sustainable Development Goals 3: Good Health and Well-being