A new technology to fight emerging diseases and pandemics

Associate Professor Charani Ranasinghe will study the efficacy of new vaccines as part of the consortium

Researchers from the John Curtin School of Medical Research are part of a consortium that has just won AU$14.6 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), to develop breakthrough vaccines against deadly infectious diseases. The team, led by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ), will develop a platform technology (known as a “molecular clamp”) to develop new vaccines in weeks instead of years.

The project has been labelled as ambitious and could change the way we respond to pandemics. The consortium aims to manufacture 200.000 doses for a new vaccine, demonstrate its safety and likelihood of efficacy in as little as six months from pathogen identification. The molecular clamp technology will allow researchers to rapidly respond to emerging diseases, and diffuse potentially catastrophic situations. This technology could also fundamentally change how we protect ourselves from common virus-borne diseases, such as flu.

Some extremely promising results have already been obtained from trials targeting viruses such as influenza, Ebola or MERS coronavirus.

Associate Professor Charani Ranasinghe, ANU lead for the project, said that the collaboration will help address some of today’s worst outbreaks.

“The technology allows us to produce vaccines without using live viruses at any step, which provides increased assurance of safety. The molecular clamp allows us to use relevant information from the virus genome that has been sequenced in the field to produce a vaccine in record time”.

Associate Professor Ranasinghe and her team will evaluate the efficacy of several viral vaccines as part of this project.

The technology has been patented by UniQuest, UQ’s commercialisation company.