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23 Jul 2019

Doherty researchers part of $10million international grant

Professor Katherine Kedzierska and her team are part of an international collaboration that has been awarded more than AUD$10 million for a five-year project, Control of Influenza: Individual and Population Immunity.

The funding was granted through the Theme-based Research Scheme from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council and the project is led by Professor Benjamin Cowling from The University of Hong Kong.

As a travel hub situated at an epicenter of zoonotic and pandemic emergence, Hong Kong is particularly challenged by emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, and in particular by influenza viruses.

Professor Kedzierska’s contribution to this significant project includes her laboratory’s ground-breaking discoveries in influenza immunology, and especially around killer immune cells and their potential to be used in the development of a universal flu vaccine.

In research published in February this year, a PhD student in Professor Kedzierska’s laboratory, Marios Koutsakos found killer T cells can fight all influenza viruses, A, B and C.

“Being part of this international collaboration, and working together with Professors Ben Cowling, Malik Peiris and others from HKU, is an incredible privilege and it’s exciting to be able to contribute discoveries from our laboratory in Melbourne,” Professor Kedzierska said.

“The hope is that by working together over the next 5 years, we will be able to answer some of the elusive questions around influenza immunity to improve control of influenza pandemics and epidemics, at both individual and population levels.” Over the past 15 years, the team has established a world-leading multi-disciplinary research program in Hong Kong, which has contributed to public health responses locally and globally.

The researchers propose to build on this foundation and further strengthen capacity to address important research questions in influenza virus immunity and transmission with a long-term mission to achieve more effective and efficient control of this disease.

New innovative antibody and cell-mediated immune mechanisms have been described in the past decade, and the importance of these mechanisms in protection in humans has been identified as a major knowledge gap.

This research program will lead to significant discoveries in influenza research to inform local, national and global health policy on how to reduce the impact of influenza epidemics and pandemics.