Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti wins Eureka Prize for Scientific Research

Dr Chris Andoniou, Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti, Peter Fleming and Dr Paulo Martins at the Eureka Prize award night. Absent: Professor Geoff Hill.
Dr Chris Andoniou, Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti, Peter Fleming and Dr Paulo Martins at the Eureka Prize award night. Absent: Professor Geoff Hill.

Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and her team have won the 2019 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for their ground-breaking discovery into cytomegalovirus (CMV).

“It's a true honour that our team has been recognised for our work on CMV with the 2019 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research," Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti said.

Bone marrow and organ transplant recipients have highly compromised immune systems and are at high risk of developing life-threatening infections following transplantation. Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and her team found a way to manage one of the most common viral infections caused by CMV. Using antibodies, they were able to prevent the virus from reactivating and causing disease.

Antibodies (Y shaped) stop viruses from reactivating when they are matched. Supplied by Mariapia Degli-Esposti, Leonie Herson/Squarecell.Creating a world-first pre-clinical model to examine the reactivation of CMV following bone marrow transplantation, they discovered that antibodies are key to limiting reactivation, and injecting mice after transplantation with antibodies matched to the infecting strain of CMV (CMV strain-specific antibodies) protected them from CMV reactivation.

"We believe the results from our pre-clinical model into CMV will pave the way for future clinical trials to test this approach as a novel therapy," Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti added.

Their research was published in the prestigious journal Science in January. Professor Degli-Esposti co-led the paper with Professor Geoff Hill, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. The rest of the team included Dr Christopher Andoniou from Monash BDI and the Lions Eye Institute , Peter Fleming from the Lions Eye Institute, and Dr Paulo Martins from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

Other finalists in the Scientific Research category included the Australian Attosecond Team from Griffith University and the Australian National University, and the Invisible Catalyst Team from the Australian National University and Curtin University.

The Monash BDI had finalists in two other categories of the Eureka Prizes: the Sensory Science Team were finalists for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion, and Professor Paul Wood AO was a finalist for the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners at this year’s Australian Museum Eureka Prizes. For a full list of the winners, visit the Australian Museum website.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.