MRFF funding for Burnet COVID research

Burnet Institute

02 June, 2020

Image: Professor Heidi Drummer, Burnet Institute Program Director, Disease Elimination

Burnet Institute research into the development of antivirals for COVID-19 to be led by Professor Heidi Drummer will benefit from important new funding provided by the Australian Government through the Medical Research Future Fund.

A total of AUD$66 million will be added to the AUD$30 million already pledged for the Coronavirus Research Response to develop a vaccine and treatments, and better prepare for future pandemics.

Nine research teams will share in AUD$7.3 million to support the development of promising antiviral therapies for COVID-19, including Burnet’s project, Novel inhibitors of SARS coronaviruses targeting ACE2.

“This grant brings together expertise from Burnet Institute and Monash University to examine the ability of novel agents that target the viral entry receptor ACE2 to prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2,” Professor Drummer, Burnet Program Director, Disease Elimination, said.

“Antivirals that target this very first step of the infection cycle could have great potential to treat infections. We are delighted to receive this funding to rapidly evaluate their potential to treat COVID-19.”

The most successful of the projects awarded under this round will have an opportunity to seek additional funding of up to AUD$10 million to accelerate their therapy to clinical practice, including for human trials.

Burnet is also a collaborator in a project led by The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research to develop biologics for the prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.

Biologics are medicines that mimic naturally occurring proteins such as antibodies – immune proteins that fight infection.

“This consortium is applying seven different antibody related platforms to generate 10,000 candidates to neutralise virus entry, and over the next nine months the 10,000 has to be reduced to one candidate,” Professor Mark Hogarth, Burnet Institute Head, Immune Therapies Group, said.

“That’s a major undertaking, a 24/7 program.”

In all, the latest funding will support four target areas of research:

  • Investing in a vaccine for COVID-19
  • Investing in antiviral therapies for COVID-19
  • Clinical trials of potential treatments for COVID-19
  • Improving the health system’s response to COVID-19 and future pandemics

“Our Government is absolutely committed to protecting the community, to keeping Australians as safe and well as possible during this pandemic, and to supporting our doctors, nurses and other health workers,” Commonwealth Health Minister, The Hon Greg Hunt, MP, said.

“This will help ensure Australians are protected from COVID-19 at the earliest possible time.”

Find out more about Burnet’s broad range of COVID-19 projects, and how you can support our life-saving research.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Heidi Drummer

Co-Program Director, Disease Elimination; Scientific Director, Burnet Diagnostics Initiative; Principal Investigator, Burnet Vaccine Initiative; Co-Head, Viral Entry and Vaccines Group




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