$1.25 million fellowship to develop rapid pandemic treatments

The University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Dan Watterson has been awarded a $1.25 million CSL Centenary Fellowship to research accelerated pandemic treatments.

The Fellowship – one of two presented by the biotech firm – will allow Dr Watterson and his team to develop new ways of rapidly generating treatments to respond to future viral pandemics as they arise.

“Viruses have always intrigued me,” Dr Watterson said.

“They’re the most basic form of life and can help us understand how life works at a fundamental level.

“We can use that knowledge to develop new therapies and vaccines to save lives, identifying and manufacturing anti-viral antibodies and delivering them to patients using mRNA.”

Dr Watterson said he was looking forward to harnessing the power of UQ’s molecular clamp technology, developed with Professor Paul Young and Associate Professor Keith Chappell.

The technology holds a virus spike protein in its original form, so that an effective immune response can be generated.

“Molecular clamps can enable rapid development of anti-viral drugs,” Dr Watterson said.

“In this research, we’re taking a leaf out of how the human body responds to a new virus – it first creates antibodies that are broadly reactive and can actually prevent infection from a range of different viruses.

“We’ll be able to repurpose the molecular clamp to identify anti-viral antibodies, make them in the equivalent form found when the body responds to a completely novel viral threat, and deliver them to patients using mRNA.”

Dr Watterson said the Fellowship would give his team the freedom to step back and consider how best to tackle viruses.

“I believe we’ll be able to develop new therapies against emerging viral pathogens before they’re able to become anything like a pandemic,” he said.

The CSL Centenary Fellowships were established to mark 100 years since the establishment of CSL in 1916.

Two individual, five-year, $1.25 million fellowships are awarded each year, with this year’s other Fellowship awarded to Dr Stephin Vervoort at WEHI and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Dr Stephen Vervoortl use his CSL Centenary Fellowship to unravel fundamental steps in DNA transcription and use that knowledge to identify possible small molecule drugs that could target acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and other cancers.

 

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