I hope everyone has had a good break over the holiday season. We had a hectic December with many of the lab attending and presenting talks and posters at the Australian Society for Immunology meeting (see photos) and being part of the attendant COVID outbreak! We are having a lab lawn bowls party in January (photos soon).
The team has been working hard on 2 follow up COVID breakthrough studies focusing on variant-specific antibody responses and T cell responses with some fascinating results. See here for one of the preprints and here for Marios’s tweetorial. We are beginning a study of COVID breakthrough in the elderly together with Austin hospital colleagues.
Congratulations to Jen who was promoted to level C and was awarded a prestigious Dame Kate Campbell fellowship. Stephen was heartened to receive a Mentorship Excellence award from our faculty – he’s very proud of the success of all our past and current students, staff and collaborators. Stephen and close collaborators Miles Davenport, Katherine Kedzierska and Kanta Subbarao were honoured to be finalists in the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science recently.
We will be looking to employ a new post-doc or 2 in the viral immunology space during 2023 so please contact us if interested in joining our productive and fun lab. The lab mostly uses the @viralvaxlab twitter handle these days if Elon doesn’t blow it up, so consider following us there also.
Stephen was relieved to be awarded an NHMRC investigator grant recently – it is super competitive – phew. Adam and the team have had success with a grant to generate further monoclonal antibodies against pandemic viruses. Adam was also awarded the 2022 Dean’s Innovation Grant – see photo. Lots of nice papers coming through – check out our publication page here.
Our first MRFF COVID Immunity grant wrapped up in style with a symposium and then dinner – well done to Katherine Kedzierska for leading it and all our collaborators for being so helpful. A big thanks to Jane for keeping us on track. We now start out second COVID immunity MRFF.
Jen and Stephen attended the 2022 ISV Annual Congress and Adam attended the 2022 ASI Clinical Translation School – see photos below.
We welcome Dr Chi Trieu to the lab – she’s spending 12 months with us on loan from the lab of Rebecca Cox at University of Bergen in Norway. She’ll be working on various COVID immunity projects and learning new skills. The O’Connors from Wisconsin are coming back for an encore to their sabbatical visit during November this year.
We’ve started a study to examine the best timing to give the Moderna bivalent COVID vaccine that contains an Omicron variant. It may be that delaying the boost provides the immune system a chance to develop better responses. Please consider enrolling in the trial if you are interested! – more details and how to express your interest are here.
We are looking for a post-doc with mouse experience to work with Hyon-Xhi and Adam on various COVID and Flu immunisation projects – advertisement is here.
And lastly, in other news, Wen Shi got married! See photo of the newlyweds below.
Our move to new labs is complete and went really smoothly. We’re loving the brand new facilities and heaps of space. Soooo many people were helpful with the move both in our lab, at the Doherty Institute, and at the Medical building – thanks everyone. Feel free to come and visit us at the north wing of the 6th floor of the tri-radiate medical building #181. Some photos of the nice new space below.
We had a really fun lab ski retreat to the Melb Uni Mt Buller lodge recently – see photos. The weather and snow were not perfect, but a good time had by all none-the-less. Thanks to Wen Shi and Jane for organizing it so well.
Big news is that Isaac and wife Val welcomed a baby girl, Melissa, and all doing well. Isaac was due to give a committee meeting presentation and final PhD oration the very week that things started to happen, so they’ve been pushed back as he relishes being a new Dad!
Sam and Ebene have given PhD and MPhil final orations respectively recently – both did super well and Amy and Stephen are very proud of their achievements. They are writing up and exploring future opportunities now! Attached are their presentation posters.
Lara started work with Marios as a postdoc recently funded by his Locarnini-Morningside Fellowship – she did a great PhD with Pat Reading through the Bonn-UoM PhD scheme and has settled in really well. Marios is spending a few months in the US soon with Ali Elebeddy’s group in St Louis – they are very well known for various studies of lymph node/bone marrow immunity and no doubt Marios will have a productive and educational time there.
Winter has arrived in Melbourne, but at least the snow should be good for our lab ski retreat in August! Jen, Adam, Marios, Hyon-Xhi and Emily escaped to a Keystone meeting in Colorado for some high-altitude summer and presented their viral immunity work.
Lots of nice papers and pre-prints coming out – see Publication page. We’re proud of the team effort involved in our kinetic analysis of breakthrough COVID that came out in Immunity recently. Really dedicated group of participants put up with regular blood samples while they were miserable with COVID. For Delta infections, as the neutralising Ab response kicks in, their virus goes down – this fits with our collaborative work on neutralising antibodies as the correlate of protection with the Davenport group. Omicron is so escaped though that the picture for the Omicron breakthroughs is more complicated – Wen Shi and Robyn are plowing through Omicron neutralising assays now and seeing an interesting rise in Omicron-specific neuts now.
Our amazing EMCRs are busy writing MRFF grants at the moment – possibly the EMCR MRFF scheme will be ridiculously over-subscribed and chances of success a lottery. But, like cod-liver oil, perhaps it will be good experience!
Very excited about our impending move across the road to the medical building soon. Thakshila, Robyn, Jen, Adam and the whole team are doing a fantastic job, together with Paula from the DMI and Effie and Milly from the Medical building, in coordinating everything. Sad to leave the PDI but soooo much more space for us to grow and everyone to reach their potential. We plan to move back to the new AIID building next to the Doherty Institute when that is built in a few short years.
We’re having our annual “Gratefulness morning tea” this week where we get to graciously thank people for all their help in keeping our group stay productive and be a generally nice place to work. Attached photo of one of our certificates and a few photos of the event. The event is a combination of poignant moments and eye-rolling-ness all at the same time - we’ve had people cry with gratitude of being thanked in the past!
Apologies for the big time gap – I have trouble getting help with the website but we have a new project manager Janavi who can help me now! Janavi is working with Stephen, Adam and Jen on our MRFF vaccine project.
Big news is that the lab has grown so much we are moving into a bigger lab over at the medical building – floor 6 North. Exciting brand newly renovated space with heaps of lab space and desk space so not so squeezy! Will miss working shoulder to shoulder with Amy’s group but we can all grow a bit more now!
Congratulations to Marios who was awarded the Locarnini fellowship from the Doherty which is a great feather in his cap – he will grow his team, with Thu recently starting as a PhD student. Wen Shi was awarded a Melbourne Fellowship from the faculty allowing him to chase down many of his great projects. Both were really competitive (one awarded!) and well deserved.
Some great papers have come out – check out our publication page. Some photos attached – we had a great lab retreat near Apollo bay again – nicer weather for a change! We’re planning a ski trip retreat to the University lodge at Buller in August.
Massive month for grants. Jen, Hyon-Xhi and Amy were all awarded NHMRC Investigator grants! These 5-year salary grants are super crazy hard to get – our group’s 100% success rate (3 for 3) is a bit better than the overall success rate (a dispiriting 15%, and closer to 10% for the divisions they were competing in!). This allows certainty in their career for them and a chance to tackle big longer term projects. Well done!! Stephen and Adam are just bursting with pride and the whole lab has contributed in many ways to their success.
Another huge win was that the MRFF has funded the stage 2 of our anti-COVID monoclonal antibody project at $5m. This is an award with WEHI and takes the Mabs we generated in our lab through to human trials. It reflects incredibly hard work by Adam, Hyon-Xhi, Robyn, Hannah, Thakshila, Jen and many many more. It also couldn’t have been done without the help of our COVID+ donors whose B cells we isolated the Mabs from. We are very grateful. The paper on our Mabs has just come out in Cell Reports (see the cover photo!). Photo below of our wider collaboration in front of Naughtons.
Our fruitful collaboration with Miles Davenport continues to gather steam. Our piece of correlates of immunity in Nature Med has become an instant citation classic, garnering over 300 cites in a few months. We have an important article on immunity to variants coming out in Lancet Microbe soon. We have been thinking about “immune imprinting” from old COVID strains and how this will affect boosting with vaccines – we wrote an article on this in Trends in Immunology recently. We have also been busy studying how immunity is “recalled” following COVID antigen re-exposure. We think this has implications for how the world will grapple with long term immunity to COVID in an era of regular exposures. Stay tuned for future articles in this space!
Some new RAs have joined the group recently – Grace is working with Jen and Andrew is working with Adam and Robyn. Pradhipa has started as an RA with Amy. Ruth has started a PhD with Amy. Attached screen shot of a recent lab meeting. Sad news is that Kathleen, Ester and Hannah will be leaving in the coming months. Kathleen and Jen were a formidable team; Kathleen has a job in the US and we’ll miss her greatly – we hope she comes back one day! Ester is moving a little further out of Melbourne with her growing family and we wish her well – Amy and the whole lab will miss her wealth of experience. Kirsty with help from quiz-master Penny helped organise a virtual lab gathering with Uber eats vouchers from Jane to say good-bye in these lockdown times – attached photo! Hannah is moving to Canberra with her partner and has lined up a great post-doc at ANU.
A big couple of months for grants – we were humbled to receive a $3m MRFF award to study vaccines against the new COVID variants. Adam, Jen, Hyon-Xhi, Wen Shi, Robyn, Kathleen, Isaac, Hannah and Jane did a fantastic job generating data and putting the grant together. We’re grateful to our partners Kanta Subbarao at the Doherty, Trent Munro at UQ, Jason Lickliter at Nucleus Network, Wai-Hong Tham at WEHI, Kylie Quinn at RMIT, Miles Davenport at UNSW and many others for helping out so generously.
We recently held a “COVID Community forum” recently to thank all our dedicated participants of all our many research studies. It was a great chance to chat and say a heartfelt thanks, give a brief update on our work and for our scientists to meet some of the participants and vice versa. We wouldn’t have made nearly the headway on COVID that we have without the generous help of people enrolling in our studies.
We’ve been working with Jesse Toe and others from the research and commercialisation team at the University on trying to move our COVID treatments and vaccines towards human trials. Jesse kindly gave us a coffee mug for all our work (see photo).
Penny recently started with our group as an RA working with Hyon-Xhi and Jen. Thi Do has also started work with Marios as an RA and plans to start a PhD with us in 2022. Timon passed his PhD and is off to Amsterdam for a post-doc there. Hannah passed her PhD also and may be off to Canberra later in the year.
Apologies for the delay in updating the website – there were some changes in the personnel who maintain the site and Stephen is not good at it!
We’ve had a hugely productive few months understanding COVID immunity, with papers on new COVID vaccines, durability of immunity in COVID, COVID nanobodies, COVID ADCC, ACE2 levels in COVID, COVID neutralising antibodies, correlates of protection in COVID, human coronaviruses, HLA I restricted CTL responses in COVID. Many more papers in various aspects of submission. We’re very proud of all our work helping understand COVID and help with vaccines and treatments. Adam, Jen, Hyon-Xhi, Wen Shi, Robyn, Kathleen, Thakshila and the whole team is doing an amazing job. We’re collaborating closely with Amy Chung and Katherine Kedzierska’s groups which has also been super productive and very fun and collegial. We have a COVID immunity MRFF with Katherine, Amy and many others where we meet regularly to hear updates and chat about our latest work. Jane is doing a good job keeping us on track.
We had a fantastic lab retreat in Marysville recently where we all presented our work, heard about our latest grant and commercial applications, and had a number of team-building exercises. We were fortunate to have Prof Miles Davenport a long-term collaborator from UNSW come down and provide his perspective on our work and directions. The RAs should have won this tip packing contest but fell at the last hurdle to the post-docs! Adam had the group leaders in the lead early until Miles and Stephen’s turns.
Everyone is finally back full time in the lab. The whole lab has recently been vaccinated against COVID which is excellent. Hannah has submitted her thesis and is working with us on an ARC nanoparticle grant – she may be moving to Canberra with her partner at the end of the year. Julius and Wenbo have passed their PhD theses which is great. Kirsty has returned from her interrupted honors year to do a PhD with Jen. Devaki joins us from NZ to do a PhD with Adam and Hyon-Xhi. Marios has joined us from the Kedzierska lab and is off to a great start with some Flu B projects.