This Honours Graduate is Off to Tackle the Global Pattern of Disease Outbreaks

JCSMR Honours Graduate Lachlan Deimel

Lachlan Deimel has long had his sights set on science, having an awareness of our vulnerability to infectious disease from a very young age.

He has grown up watching as the world goes through the swine flu pandemic (2009) and the Ebola outbreak 5 years later. Lachlan has now graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ultimately, this pattern of disease outbreaks should be unsettling, highlighting the fragility of our public health position.” says honours graduate Lachlan Deimel.

Lachlan has been awarded the Departmental Studentship to study at the University of Oxford.

This is a prestigious award, funded by the Clarendon Fund and the Brasenose Oxford Australia Scholarship, will see Lachlan undertake his PhD.

The University of Oxford is highly regarded for infectious disease and immunology, especially vaccine immunology. In particular, it is one of the leading institutions in developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

“I’ve always felt that we should be ambitious for the role of vaccines during pandemics because of its unique ability to safeguard human life.” Says Lachlan.

“Unfortunately, the challenges in rapidly designing and developing successful candidates have made it impossible to rely on vaccination as an early public health strategy.

“The international response to SARS-CoV-2 has demonstrated that we have the potential to further bolster our vaccine pipelines to ensure that candidates are efficacious, safe and speedily developed.

“Ultimately, it’s critical to remind ourselves that there’s nothing written in the stars that says that the next pandemic won’t be as contagious as Measles and as lethal as Marburg—we’ve just been lucky in recent decades.

“Certainly, in the coming years, we may face a pathogen so serious that it could be a civilisation-ending event."

“So, in 2020, of all years, we should be motivated to ensure that we have vaccine pipelines ready to best position us for when (not if) we’re faced with something far, far worse than SARS-CoV-2.”

Lachlan says that he has enjoyed his time at JCSMR as a member of The Ranasinghe Group, and is looking forward to developing and extending his skills as a scientist.

“JCSMR is a fabulous place to be a student. It’s a very collaborative environment, where everyone has their experimental and scientific areas of expertise––and there’s a very special culture of sharing insights and working constructively together.”

Lachlan will be joining Prof Quentin Sattentau at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, undertaking a project that aims to address a key challenge in establishing viral vaccine-specific immunity.

“Briefly,” Lachlan says, “many viruses coat their surfaces in carbohydrates, which effectively ‘shields’ the virus from immune recognition.”

“The glycan shield is particularly problematic in the context of HIV-1, though we now understand that SARS-CoV-2 is also heavily glycosylated.

“We aim to establish a novel vaccine platform that can reliably breach the glycan shield to improve vaccination outcomes.

“This platform would have enormous implications for many viral pathogens that are resistant to the raising of broadly neutralising antibodies.”

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