Funding allows researchers to uncover the secrets of COVID-19 immunity

A/Prof Corey Smith; QIMR (top L), A/Prof Stephanie Gras, Monash BDI (top R); Dr Kirsty Short, UQ (bottom L); and A/Prof Kim Jacobson, Monash BDI (bottom R).

Federal funding will help a team of researchers determine how long immunity lasts in people who’ve recovered from COVID-19, critical information as the world waits for a vaccine. 

The Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has granted a million dollars to the two year project, run by The University of Queensland, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), Monash University, Mater Research and Queensland Health.

UQ’s Dr Kirsty Short said it was a unique opportunity to understand how long people have immunity to the virus, what kind of immunity they have and whether it’s different for different patients.

“This is important to know because in the advent that it takes a while to get a vaccine, we need to know who is at risk of re-infection, and when there is a vaccine we need to know who is likely to need boosters,” Dr Short said.

Associate Professor Stephanie Gras from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute said the funding would allow the researchers to provide a deep understanding of the different components of the immune response to infection.

“We will focus our effort in understanding what parts of the virus are the most important to target for a protective and long-live immune response that will be critical in a vaccine,” she said.

QIMR’s Associate Professor Corey Smith said the team hoped to recruit more participants in Brisbane and Melbourne, to boost the data on immune responses in recovered patients.

“Our next step will be to correlate these responses with antibody responses and start to investigate the impact age and co-morbidities have on the quality of the response and how well they are maintained over time,” Dr Smith said

“We hope this insight will be important for our understanding of what goes wrong in patients who develop severe complications and to determine which cohorts of people could remain at risk.of infection despite previous exposure.”

Associate Professor Kim Jacobson from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute said that "Immune memory and antibody production is vital for protection against viral reinfection. This MRFF funding enables us to ask these critical questions: is high-quality and long-lived B cell memory formed to SARS-COV-2, or is there a heightened risk of reinfection, particularly in people with comorbidities?"

Dr Short said it was an unbelievable feeling to be able to continue the collaborative research.

“We have been working non-stop since the pandemic began to try and answer some of these important questions and now we have the financial support to do so, so it’s great to see our hard work can now be translated into improved health outcomes for Australians,” she said.

“We hope to be able to feed some valuable information into public health responses and vaccine design and roll-out as soon as possible.”

Please email the Brisbane study if you have recovered from COVID-19 and you are interested in participating: Covid.DiabetesStudy@mater.org.au.

Please email the Monash study if you have recovered from COVID-19 and you are interested in participating: Stephanie.gras@monash.edu or Emma.grant@monash.edu .

Media: Dr Kirsty Short, k.short@uq.edu.au
UQ Communications, communications@uq.edu.au
+61 7 3365 3439.


About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

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.