BRACE trial PhD opportunities

Looking for a clinical or immunological PhD project?

If you’re interested in being part of the world’s largest study on the off-target effects of Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, you’re in the right place. Based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the BRACE trial has some exciting clinical and immunological PhD projects.

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Professor Nigel Curtis

Primary Supervisor 

  • BRACE trial Chief Principal Investigator
  • Head of the Infectious Diseases Research Group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at The University of Melbourne
  • Head of Infectious Diseases at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
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Dr Nicole Messina


  • Biosample and Laboratory Lead on the BRACE trial at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • Honorary Fellow, Department of Paediatrics, Melbourne Medical School at The University of Melbourne
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Dr Laure Pittet


  • Clinical Data and Safety Lead on the BRACE trial at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute
  • Paediatrician, Honorary Clinical Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne


Project details

Besides protecting against its target disease, tuberculosis, the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine has beneficial off-target ('heterologous' or 'non-specific') effects on human health, including reducing all cause infant mortality, likely by protecting against non-mycobacterial infectious diseases. This protection is proposed to result from the immunomodulatory effects of BCG.

Our team has established two randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating whether BCG protects against non-mycobacterial diseases:

  • The BRACE trial: our international RCT of almost 7000 healthcare workers from five countries, to determine if BCG vaccination reduces the incidence of symptomatic and severe COVID-19, as well as other respiratory illness and allergic diseases.
  • Melbourne Infant Study: BCG for Allergy and Infection Reduction (MIS BAIR): our RCT of neonatal BCG vaccination in over 1,200 Melbourne children to determine if BCG protects against allergic disease, eczema, asthma and other infections.

PhD projects will use the extensive data and sample biobank from participants in one or both trials to study the off-target effects of BCG. The clinical project will use the extensive demographic and symptom data from our participants to better understand COVID-19 and risk factors for severe disease. The laboratory project will involve characterising BCG-induced changes in the immune system. You will use a combination of in vitro stimulation assays, flow cytometry, multiplex cytokine assays, epigenetic analysis and gene expression analyses.

The findings will provide important insights into the immunomodulatory effects of BCG and the associations between these changes and the beneficial clinical effects of this vaccine, as well as the immunological features associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19. We are also exploring the immune response to COVID-19 vaccines in our participants and the impact of BCG on this.

Interested in joining the team of almost 400 researchers and staff?

To find out more or to apply, contact us.

Contact us

The BRACE trial
Murdoch Children's Research Institute
The Royal Children's Hospital
50 Flemington Road
Parkville VIC 3052

Ph: 0409 846 988