New COVID vaccine among recipients of funding injection

The University of Sydney has received funding for 12 research projects, including a single-dose COVID vaccine, from the Medical Research Future Fund.

A single-dose vaccine that targets new COVID-19 variants has been awarded funding to fast-track testing in human trials.

The University of Sydney technology was one of 12 research projects to be awarded funding under the latest Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) round.

Other Sydney projects that shared in the $29 million in funding will focus on child mental health and silicosis.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said Sydney dominated this round of MRFF funding.

“We’re delighted that this funding injection will support our continued research into important areas of need for the communities we serve – from long-term management of COVID to addressing the ever-increasing mental health challenges our children and young people face.”

Professor Jamie Triccas and collaborators developed the innovative single-dose vaccine using the tuberculosis vaccine, which he says has “impeccable safety”, as a base.

Showing potent COVID-19 immunity in pre-clinical trials, the vaccine, which can be manufactured at a low cost and does not require storage at very low temperatures, will now be fast-tracked to human trials thanks to a $1.5 million MRFF grant.

Professor Triccas said the vaccine may offer broader protection than first generation vaccines against emerging and highly transmissible variants, such as the B.1.351 (South African) variant, which is able to avoid both natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Ensuring a diverse, rapid and global vaccine supply to combat emerging variants will be necessary to end the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Professor Triccas.

Professor Triccas’ vaccine may even offer protection against tuberculosis, which is still a significant issue in developing countries.

If approved, it could act as a booster shot for Australians who have already received the COVID-19 vaccine or be rolled out to low- and middle-income countries as part of Australia’s commitment to supply vaccines to countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Other Sydney research funded in this MRFF round:

  • Professor Mark Dadds and his team were awarded almost $12 million to establish Growing Minds Australia, a child and youth clinical trials network that will improve diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems in children and youth, while also improving mental health literacy, and reducing stigma.
  • Professor Patrick Brennan will lead a $1.4 million project to enhance silicosis diagnosis using artificial intelligence.
  • Professor Gemma Figtree and team were awarded close to $1 million for a project focused on personalised prevention of coronary artery disease.
  • Professor Jonathan Iredell and team were awarded almost $1 million to establish Phage Australia, a biobanking and therapeutics network to deliver solutions for antimicrobial resistance, which is safer and more precise than antibiotics, with fewer side effects.
  • Professor Gerard Sutton will lead a near-$1 million project to develop bioengineered corneal tissue to replace donor corneas, fighting blindness.
  • Professor Lyn March will lead a $2.7 million project to improve safety and efficiency of treatments for rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.
  • Professor Thomas Snelling will lead a $2.1 million project to evaluate incentives for accessing treatment for early-stage hepatitis C.
  • Dr Stephanie Partridge and team were awarded $511,000 for a project to improve adolescent physical activity and nutrition behaviours via primary care.
  • Professor Germaine Wong and team were awarded $2.8 million to trial immunosuppression strategies to treat polyomavirus infections in kidney and pancreas transplant recipients.
  • Professor Ben Freedman will lead a $1.7 million trial to screen for atrial fibrillation with ECG to reduce strokes.
  • Professor John Zalcberg and team will work on a $1 million project for an international trial of a treatment for GIST, a type of cancer that starts in the digestive tract.

Professor Manuela Ferreira was also awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant this week to lead a $1 million trial to test the most effective treatment for people with pain and disability who have had the meniscus cartilage removed from the knee – transplant surgery to replace cartilage or exercise and physiotherapy.

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