UQ School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences researchers will tackle significant international health issues following successful funding in the latest National Health and Medical Research Council round.

Funded projects will investigate a range of topics from a potential Ebola virus vaccine candidate, to breast cancer susceptibility genes, dengue virus, and immune responses to disease.

The School attracted $2,607,935 for four NHMRC projects and $2, 194,575 for three NHMRC Research Fellowships – a total of $4,802,510 - in the 2016 round.

In addition, a number of unsuccessful applications in various faculty schools also ranked very highly in NHMRC Projects, boding well for potential success in future rounds.

The largest NHMRC project grant in SCMB ($736,995) was awarded to Professor Alexander Khromykh whose team is developing an Еbola virus vaccine candidate.

Professor Khromykh is the Deputy Director of the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre.

Last year saw an emergence of an unprecendented outbreak of Ebola virus (EBOV) in West Africa which to date has resulted in more than 27,000 reported infections and more than 11,000 deaths, prompting an urgent need for a vaccine.

Although a number of EBOV vaccine candidates have been developed and some of them are currently undergoing clinical trials, none of them have yet been approved.

Professor Khromykh’s project aims at developing an Ebola virus vaccine candidate based on a self-replicating RNA (replicon) from an attenuated Australian strain of mosquito-borne West Nile virus known as Kunjin.

West Nile virus belongs to the flaviviruses, a group of highly pathogenic positive-strand RNA viruses that affect more than 50 million people per year.

Professor Khromykh’s work at the Centre aims to better understand how flaviviruses replicate in the host in order to develop more effective flavivirus vaccine candidates as well as Kunjin replicon-based vectors for vaccines and cancer therapy.

NHMRC Project funding was also awarded as follows:

  • $621,979 to Dr Katryn Stacey and Professor Paul Young to study Dengue virus NS1 protein as a mediator of pathology;
  • $711,995 to Professor Bostjan Kobe for Characterization and inhibition of higher-order assembly signalling in Toll-like receptor pathways; and
  • $536,966 for Professor Melissa Brown for Clinical classification of regulatory variants in breast cancer susceptibility genes.

Five year research fellowships were awarded to:

  • $753,300 to Professor Bostjan Kobe to investigate Structural biology and therapeutic targeting of proteins involved in infection and immunity;
  • $687,975 to Professor Mark Schembri for Halting the spread of multidrug resistant uropathogenic E. coli; and
  • $753,300 to Professor Mark Walker for Epidemiology, pathogenesis and prevention of group A streptococcal infection.
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