Multi-institutional consortium attracts $6.3 million MRFF grant to profile COVID-19 vaccine responses in our most vulnerable patient populations across the lifespan

The consortium entitled PROPHECY: Profiling immune RespOnse in Paediatric and High-risk populations to SARS-CoV-2 is led by a diverse executive team of both scientist and clinician researchers, Prof Menno Van Zelm (Immunology & Pathology, CCS), Dr Gabriela Khoury (Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute), Prof Heidi Drummer (Burnet Institute), A/Prof James McMahon (Infectious Diseases and Alfred Health) and A/Prof Benjamin Rogers (School of Clinical Sciences and Monash Health).

The study has 15 Chief Investigators and 10 Associate Investigators, spanning the Central Clinical School campus, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, the School of Clinical Sciences, the Burnet Institute, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and three health services; Alfred Health, Monash Health and the Royal Children’s Hospital.  Funded over four years, the consortium will characterise the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 variants and COVID-19 vaccines in children, adolescents, adults and vulnerable populations who are at risk of severe disease.

“We have a great team with complementary expertise which has worked hard over the past two years to put this project together,” Professor van Zelm said. “I’m very happy that it has been awarded funding – you feel recognised.”

Recipients of the MRFF – Coronavirus Research Response – 2021 COVID-19 Treatment Access and Public Health Activities Grant Opportunity funding were announced on the 30th August by Federal Health Minister Mark Butler.

The MRFF-funded project will examine immune response to vaccination and infection across humoral immunity (antibodies, B cells) and cellular immunity (T cells) in children and adults with underlying health conditions including chronic kidney disease, lung disease, immune deficiencies, immunosuppressive treatments, and stem and solid organ transplant recipients.

“This study will comprehensively profile the immune responses to infection and COVID-19 vaccines in these patient groups” says Dr Gabriela Khoury and “Importantly, the consortium will provide opportunities for students and junior research staff to obtain training in clinical and translational research across multiple sites”

A/Prof Benjamin Rogers “A unique component of PROPHECY is the breadth of clinical specialties coming together to support this research. Previous research has often focused on a single speciality or condition. With PROPHECY we will learn how to better protect and treat COVID-19 in patients with a weakened immune system from a range of different conditions.”

“Through this study, we hope to guide the future development of improved vaccination and treatment strategies for those most at risk of severe COVID-19” says Prof Heidi Drummer.

The Executive team is delighted to be working alongside important consumer patient organisations and Victorian Government’s, Safer Care Victoria,  Spleen Australia, AusPIPS, the National Association of people with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Musculoskeletal (MSK) Australia, and Crohn’s and Colitis Australia.  These organisations will ensure the patient voice is incorporated throughout the study and will towards translating important findings into clinical practise.

A/Prof James McMahon says “The PROPHECY Study will help us understand how to best protect people with a wide range of different medical conditions from severe outcomes from COVID-19. It's a fantastic collaboration of clinicians and scientists to transfer findings from the lab to the clinic.”

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Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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