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Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo)

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. Vaccine and immunisation research is conducted in 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 work provides practical bridges (translation) between theory and the real-world delivery of vaccine programs. 

VIRGo alumni have spun off successful research programs of their own at the Doherty, the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Monash University, and at MCRI 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. VIRGo has been actively engaged in both industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated research (NHMRC 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. Subject recruitment has often been facilitated by use of 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 possible 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 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. 

Find out more about the team's work in the video below:

Group Leaders: 
Jacinta O'Sullivan
Role: 
Research Manager
Jane Ryrie
Role: 
Research Nurse
Janet Briggs
Role: 
Research Nurse
Clare Brophy
Role: 
Research Nurse
Annmarie McEvoy
Role: 
Research Nurse
Bernie McCudden
Role: 
Phlebotomist
Dr Briony Price
Role: 
Senior Research Officer
Dr Lana Horng
Role: 
Study Doctor
Catherine Sheehan
Role: 
Phlebotomist
Samara Griffin
Role: 
Vaccine Logistics Research Assistant
Anna Bourke
Role: 
Research Assistant
A/Prof Margie Danchin
Role: 
Associate
A/Prof Kirsten Perrett
Role: 
Associate

Current:
1. Quadrivalent cell culture inactivated influenza vaccine Phase III/IV 
2. RSV adenovirus vectored vaccine Phase I/IIa
3. Pneumococcal vaccine 15vPCV Phase III
4. Rotavirus vaccines and possible reduced incidence of Type 1 Diabetes
5. Data linkage, and statewide perinatal data studies on maternal pertussis vaccine (Tdap) uptake and effectiveness against infant pertussis
6. Meningococcus MenABCWY Phase IIICOVID (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines Phase II

Planned and possible studies (mid 2020-2021):
7. Meningococcus MenABCWY Phase III (prior MenACWY)
8. Pregnancy RSV vaccine Phase III
9. RSV Live-attenuated vaccine Phase II
10. Pertussis  Live-attenuated vaccine Phase I/II
11. Pertussis novel acellular, novel adjuvant
12. SARS-COV-2 RBD recombinant protein and mRNA, Phase I (adults, elderly)
13. SARS-COV-2 RBD mRNA, Phase II (children and adolescents)
 

Funding: 
  • Medical Research Future Fund
  • Seqirus
  • Janssen
  • Merck
  • GSK
Collaborations: 
  • 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