Monash immunologist receives funding for mRNA vaccine study


Dr Isaak Quast has received $100,000 from the Victorian Government to investigate a novel approach to vaccine design that could result in the development of a universal flu vaccine.

One of several recently announced grants from the mRNA Victoria Research Acceleration Fund, this funding will allow Dr Quast to research generating novel strategies for vaccine design.

Developed in collaboration with protein design experts from PTNG Consulting, the study will employ advanced protein engineering to generate immunogens for novel vaccines against infectious pathogens.

Dr Quast, a group leader in Central Clinical School’s Department of Immunology, said, “The ultimate aim of this project is to achieve the long-standing goal of developing a universal influenza virus vaccine, which would eliminate the need to create new vaccines every year based on the current variants.”

Before COVID-19, mRNA technology was predominantly used in cancer treatments, but when it was successfully used to develop COVID-19 vaccines, it reignited the interest in using the technology to develop other vaccines.

Quast added that, “By teaming up with Monash University’s RNA expert Prof Traude Beilharz, influenza virus expert Prof Nicola La Gruta and my Department of Immunology colleague Dr Danika Hill, we will formulate mRNA vaccines and test their efficacy. In doing so, we will address fundamental questions about how immunodominance is regulated, thus generating the knowledge to use this to our advantage for vaccine design.”

“This will provide a blueprint for the information required about host pathogen-interactions to develop vaccines that can guide the fine-specificity of immune responses, an approach that could prove useful in the development of vaccines for a range of pathogens including arboviral diseases (eg Zika, Chikunguya, Dengue) and HIV, which have so far proven very difficult to protect against.”

About Monash University

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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