New funding for COVID-19 immunity research

A Burnet Institute project to develop a point-of-care assay that can measure current or past infection for COVID-19, along with potential immunity to future infections, will share in AUD $5.5 million worth of funding from the Victorian Government.

The project – led by Burnet Deputy Director, Associate Professor David Anderson, in collaboration with The Doherty Institute’s Professor Dale Godfrey, Professor Damian Purcell and Professor Deborah Williamson – will allow researchers to gain a better picture of COVID-19 immunity in humans.

“We are delighted to be able to combine our point-of-care expertise with novel approaches from the Doherty Institute to develop a testing solution for the key question of who is immune to infection and reinfection,” Associate Professor Anderson said.

Doherty Institute Laboratory Head, Professor Dale Godfrey said the project aims to provide a tool that can effectively determine COVID-19 immunity at both the individual patient level and for screening populations at scale.

“Current point-of-care tests for COVID-19 are able to measure antibodies as a biomarker of infection, however they provide no information on whether these antibodies are actually protective,” Professor Godfrey said.

“This research will support the development of a highly scalable point-of-care test to measure neutralising antibody responses, and partial or complete immunity to COVID-19,” he said.

Professor Godfrey said an improved understanding of COVID-19 immunity would be essential part of the strategy to contain the virus, until an effective COVID-19 vaccine could be produced.

Announced by Victorian Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, the Hon. Jaala Pulford MP, the project is one of a number which received support from the Victorian COVID-19 Research Fund.

Funding follows earlier point-of-care test support from Government

Burnet received initial funding in March from the COVID-19 Victorian Consortium, to develop a sensitive and specific rapid point-of-care test to identify current or recent COVID-19 infections.

With that work now approaching a successful conclusion, Associate Professor Anderson will collaborate with Doherty to answer questions about COVID-19 immunity and reinfection that will help to inform long-term anti-virus strategies.

“Together, these two testing approaches will be critical tools in the management of COVID-19 worldwide,” Associate Professor Anderson said.

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