Current Research

2017 Research Projects


Prof Eric Gowans The University of Adelaide $293,880 (2016-2018)
‘A DNA Vaccine for Zika Virus’

The Gowans laboratory has developed a novel DNA vaccine that is more effective than canonical DNA vaccines and elicits robust immune responses in small (mice) and large (pigs) animals.  A vaccine for the Zika virus is urgently required because there is no therapy, and the link with microcephaly in children born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy demands that women of child-bearing potential be immunised.  As canonical vaccines (eg. live attenuated vaccines) require a considerable period of development, a DNA vaccine that can be generated in a matter of weeks represents an attractive alternative.

In this proposal, Prof. Gowans’ team examine the efficacy of novel DNA vaccines designed to elicit cell-mediated immunity to the Zika virus non-structural proteins or Zika neutralizing antibody in mice.  Thus, a major component of the project is to examine the immune responses in mice and pigs, and the protective efficacy of the vaccines in mice, with a view to identifying the most appropriate strategy to further develop for follow up studies in human clinical trials.

This project is supported thanks to generous support from the NSW Department of Primary Industries.


Prof Des Richardson The University of Sydney $105,500 (2017-2018)
‘Commercial translation of innovative null hepcidin analogues that prevent the anaemia of chronic disease (ACD)’

The anaemia of chronic disease (ACD) is a severe cause of morbidity and mortality in many millions of patients with cancer or inflammatory diseases and is due to excessive levels of the hormone hepcidin. These diseases induce excessive levels of hepcidin, which in turn promotes iron storage, thus preventing its release into the blood leading to severe and debilitating anaemia.

Prof Richardson has discovered that hepcidin is bound in the blood by a specific protein and has since developed an analogue that leads to urinary excretions of excessive hepcidin. NFMRI support will enable commercialisation of this optimal analogue.


Dr Nicholas Opie The University of Melbourne $390,000 (2017-2018)
‘Safety validation of the stent rode: a biomedical device for paralysis that converts thoughts into computer commands”

Dr Opie has developed a minimally invasive brain machine interface that has the potential to return mobility and independence to people with paralysis. His technology can record brain signals and convert them into useful commands that can be used to control computers, wheelchairs, exoskeletons and/or prosthetic limbs. Translation of existing brain machines is hampered by invasive surgical procedures, which require access the brain and lead to immune reactions that are causing device failure within months. Dr Opie and his team have already done enormous progress since receiving a $1.3m seed funding grant from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency – having already developed an implantable stent-electrode array that can record neural information from within a blood vessel, mitigating risks associated with open brain surgery.

NFMRI support will help them translate this research into clinical translation via the conduction of a world-first human trial in 2018. To meet this milestone, they must first manufacture the technology in an FDA approved and ISO certified facility and conduct the necessary preclinical experiments to demonstrate reliability, efficacy and safety.


A/Prof Michelle Hill The University of Queensland $169,204 (2017)
‘Blood glycoprotein panel for early detection of oesophageal cancer’

A/Prof Hill’s research aims to transform the detection and management of oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) by developing a blood test. OAC is increasingly common due to growth of the major risk factors: chronic reflux and obesity. Although effective treatments are available for early OAC, outcomes remain poor because most cases are diagnosed at advanced stages due to the lack of practical and effective screening tools. A/Prof Hill has identified and patented a panel of readily translatable glycoprotein biomarkers, which can differentiate OAC from benign conditions and healthy controls. Her research program is in the process of evaluating these markers in large patient samples, as a step toward development of a diagnostic test that can be introduced into clinical practice.

NFMRI support will help develop one embodiment of the innovation, the clinical immunoassay. Working with industry partner Precision Antibody, we aim to generate monoclonal antibodies that recognise the three best biomarkers for use to generate immuno-assays. Successful completion will enable the development of a practical diagnostic test based on our biomarkers.


Prof Stephen Haswell Deakin University $372,000 from 2015 to 2017
Advanced zoonotic disease detection through lab-on-a-chip technology
Funded through a partnership between the NFMRI and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Prof Haswell’s project focuses on the design, manufacture and commercialization of a cost-effective lab-on-a-chip device that can rapidly identify the presence of infection and the causative virus from a range of existing possibilities. The device, which will cost less than $20, will take less than an hour to generate results and will be able to be linked wirelessly to a database to produce a range of control and treatment options, including vaccine-specific selections, where appropriate.


Prof Michael Good Griffith University $251,000 from 2015 to 2017
Producing and testing a GMP grade peptite conjugate vaccine to prevent infection with group A streptococcus
Following an impressive 20 years of work on the development of a vaccine developed to prevent infection with group A streptococcus – the causative agent of tonsillitis, deep tissue septis, pyoderma and rheumatic heart disease – this project will focus on producing, at clinical grade, a novel GMP grade peptide conjugate vaccine for a Phase 1 trial.






Looking beyond the research and considering translational needs when funding research. How well are your expectations, application and review processes, measures of success and funding strategy aligned with the next steps for translation?

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