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Prestigious grant to profile responses to COVID-19 vaccines in vulnerable people

  • Burnet Institute
  • 06 Sep 2022

Image: Professor Heidi Drummer

Burnet Institute is part of a consortium led by Monash University, that’s been awarded a $6.3 million Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant to profile COVID-19 vaccine responses in our most vulnerable populations.

The consortium, entitled PROPHECY (Profiling immune RespOnse in Paediatric and High-risk populations to SARS-CoV-2), is led by a diverse team of Melbourne-based scientists and clinician researchers.

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.

Burnet’s Co-Program Director of Disease Elimination, Professor Heidi Drummer, is part of the PROPHECY Executive team.

“I am really delighted to be a part of this multi-institutional consortium to examine how some of our most vulnerable members of the community, those with underlying immune deficiencies and paediatric populations, develop immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines and infection with SARS-CoV-2,” she said

“The results of our study will help us understand who is at risk of severe disease and optimise vaccination strategies.”

PROPHECY will evaluate antibodies and cellular immune responses after infection or vaccination 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,” Dr Gabriela Khoury, from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, said.

A unique component of the MRFF-funded project is the breadth of clinical specialties coming together to support the research, according to Executive team member, Associate Professor Benjamin Rogers from Monash University and Monash Health.

“Previous research has often focused on a single speciality or condition,” Associate Professor Rogers said.

“With PROPHECY we will learn how to better protect and treat COVID-19 in patients with weakened immune systems from a range of different conditions.”

And the researchers hope the findings will inform future clinical care for the disease.

“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,” Professor Drummer said.

The study includes 15 Chief Investigators spanning the Alfred Research Alliance precinct, including the Monash Central Clinical School, Burnet Institute, and Alfred Health, as well as the Monash Biomedical Discovery Institute in Clayton, Monash Health, and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville.

The PROPHECY Executive team will also work alongside consumer patient organisations such as AusPIPS, NAPWHA, MSK and Crohn’s and Colitis Australia, and Victorian Government’s Safer Care Victoria, to ensure patients’ voices are considered in the project.

The MRFF grant was one of 14 announced by Federal Health Minster, the Hon Mark Butler.


Professor Heidi Drummer