MRFF backs COVID-19 vaccine candidate

The Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has invested almost $3 million into new COVID-19 vaccine candidates at the University of Melbourne.

The two vaccine candidates were developed by a team of researchers from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and Monash University and supported by vaccine manufacturer, Seqirus (a CSL company). The candidates are providing encouraging results in preclinical testing.

Professor Dale Godfrey, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology Theme Leader at the Doherty Institute, said the vaccine approaches were very different to the two Australia-based candidates currently in clinical trials.

“SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is enveloped by proteins that resemble spikes, which enable the virus to attach and enter cells. This attachment is mediated by the tip of the spike protein, known as the receptor binding domain (RBD). Our vaccine candidates focus specifically on the RBD because if we can block this attachment we can block infection,” Professor Godfrey said.

“The spike protein is viewed as the most important target for antibodies produced by the immune system because most antibodies that neutralise the virus do so by targeting the RBD region of the spike.”

The two candidates are:

  1. RBD protein – represents the tip of the spike in an isolated molecular form to focus the immune response on this critical region of the virus targeted by antibodies that neutralise viral infectivity
  2. RBD mRNA – represents the virus genetic sequence that codes for the tip of the spike, which will lead to production of the RBD protein.

Article  originally published by the Doherty Institute on 20 September.

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The Doherty Institute is a joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.