Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo)

Research area:  Infection and Immunity

Our work provides practical bridges (translation) between theory and the real-world delivery of vaccine programs. 

VIRGo is a collaboration between the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne.

Our focus

We conducted vaccine and immunisation research with clinical trials of new vaccines, and epidemiologic studies of vaccine-preventable disease. Our findings enable us to advise policy makers on the optimal use of vaccines in national immunisation schedules, in pandemic influenza preparedness and response, and in vaccine safety. 

Our impact

Our alumni have spun off successful research programs of their own, such as:

  • The Doherty, the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Monash University, and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in mathematical modelling and simulation (Prof Jodie McVernon, Prof James McCaw, Dr Rob Moss)
  • Vaccine adverse event surveillance and investigation (Prof Jim Buttery, SAEFVIC (Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Vaccination In the Community)
  • Vaccine confidence (A/Prof Margie Danchin); and in allergy and vaccines (A/Prof Kirsten Perrett).

Clinical Trials

We draw on three decades of clinical trials experience to explore the effectiveness, antibody responses and safety of new vaccines in standard or novel schedules.

We have been engaged in both industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated research (National Health and Medical Research Council funded), clinical trials and epidemiologic studies, whose findings have been vital for the licensure of several vaccines now in widespread use in Australia and/or elsewhere in the world. Vaccines evaluated have included those classified as GMOs, live-attenuated intranasal vaccines, as well as oral and conventional parenteral vaccines.

We have conducted research in pregnancy, neonates, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and in adults.

Our research has also included adults for high priority conditions, such as seasonal and pandemic influenza.

We pioneered the use of a home-based recruitment and research model using mobile teams of research staff, but have also employed more conventional venues such as the Clinical Trials Centre at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and in primary healthcare venues at the University of Melbourne.

We have often facilitated subject recruitment using the Australia’s Immunisation Registry, now a whole of life register.

Vaccines we have studied 

  • Pandemic vaccines: Influenza H5N1, H1N1
  • Infant/toddler combinations: Pentavalent and hexavalent combinations, HibMenC and HibMenCY, MMRV.
  • Respiratory Syncitial Virus: Maternal and toddler, recombinant protein and vectored vaccines
  • Meningococcus: Meningococcus B (4- and 2-component), meningococcus ACWY conjugate vaccines, meningococcus ABCWY.
  • Adolescent and adult vaccines: HPV, HSV2, seasonal and pandemic influenza.

Epidemiologic Studies 

  • Maternal influenza vaccination and impact on infant influenza illness
  • Rotavirus vaccines and possibly reduced incidence of Type 1 Diabetes
  • Data linkage, and statewide perinatal data studies on maternal pertussis vaccine (Tdap) uptake and effectiveness against infant pertussis
  • Past virus discovery research collaborating with the University of Queensland, including novel coronavirus NL63 virus discovery

Vax4COVID

Led by VIRGo at the Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity and MCRI, vax4COVID is an alliance of experienced Australian vaccine clinical trial centres formed to facilitate the conduct of Phase II trials of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates. 

Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo) at Murdoch Children's Research Institute

VIRGo has been in place for over 20 years and has the largest and longest standing child and adolescent vaccine research and clinical trials program in Australia. In this video, we hear from Professor Terry Nolan, Dr Kirsten Perrett and Dr Margie Danchin about the important work the team undertakes, including the home immunisation research program.



Contact us

Professor Terry Nolan