Petri dish

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) Associate Professor Dan Pellicci has been awarded a Viertel Fellowship to further his work in immunology and infectious disease prevention.

Associate Professor Pellicci’s research will explore how a specialised type of immune cell fights off serious infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, Strep A and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

He was one of three mid-career Australian researchers to be awarded a Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowship by The Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation. The $1.37 million, five-year grants support innovation and the development of new therapies across various health conditions.

Associate Professor Pellicci said his research would help inform future vaccine development, potentially preventing deaths and serious disease caused by respiratory infections.Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowship recipient Associate Professor Dan Pellicci

Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowship recipient Associate Professor Dan Pellicci

This project will look at severe respiratory illnesses that do not have effective vaccines. This is because we currently have a poor understanding of the immune cells that contribute to protective immunity,” he said.

“By fully understanding the workings of unconventional T cells, a particular type of white blood cell that plays a critical role in fighting off infections and building immunity, we could be a step closer to creating life-saving vaccines for tuberculosis, Strep A and RSV.”

Associate Professor Pellicci said for the project he would use MCRI’s state-of-the-art equipment including RNA-sequencing technology.

“These cutting-edge technologies are critical as they help us examine unconventional T cells to figure out what exactly occurs when the body is infected with specific bacteria and viruses,” he said.

“This project could unlock some critical answers and see major implications for infectious disease treatment here in Australia and all over the world, particularly in low-and middle-income countries where respiratory infections cause more death.”