QIMR Berghofer is expanding and fast-tracking its research into COVID-19 thanks to a $5 million funding injection from the Queensland Government.
The investment has allowed five priority research projects to move to the next stage, and will allow another four projects to start.
Having already developed a way of testing whether COVID-19 patients’ immune systems are gearing up to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Associate Professor Corey Smith and his team will now work towards developing a cellular immunotherapy for patients with severe COVID-19.
Professor Sudha Rao will continue her work to develop a new anti-viral drug that blocks the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting cells in the airways.
Associate Professor James Hudson and his team will continue their work to try to prevent heart injury during acute infection with COVID-19 and to treat heart injury in patients with long-COVID.
Dr James Roberts will keep working to develop a modelling tool to predict how best to control and prevent any potential future outbreaks of COVID-19 in Queensland.
And Associate Professor Lucia Colodro-Conde will investigate the mental health impacts in Queensland from the pandemic and control measures.
The new projects that will start thanks to the Queensland Government’s funding include investigating whether existing, approved drugs could help protect the brain against the acute inflammation that occurs in COVID-19 patients; trying to understand how COVID-19 infection affects the blood-brain barrier; and, investigating whether the molecule Ferritin exacerbates inflammatory response in severe COVID-19 cases.
The additional $5 million in funding is on top of the Queensland Government’s $18.9 million in funding for QIMR Berghofer in 2020-2021.
QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO Professor Fabienne Mackay said the extra funding from the government would help speed up the Institute’s vital work.
“I thank the Queensland Government for this investment, which will ensure QIMR Berghofer contributes to the global research effort to defeat this pandemic,” Professor Mackay said.
“Even though there are now several promising vaccines for COVID-19, we know from experience with other vaccine-preventable diseases like the flu that some people will continue to be infected with COVID-19.
“Data from around the world are showing that COVID-19 can have long-lasting effects on some patients, including on the heart and brain.
“We want to understand why this damage is occurring and find new or existing drugs that can prevent it.
“We are making good progress and this funding will help to get treatments for COVID-19 closer to reality.”