Monash University: How collaboration on a global scale is the key to advances in science and medicine
Globally recognised as a leading international medical research university, Monash University understands that global cooperation amongst the scientific community is key in the efforts to contain COVID-19.
Ranked among the top 50 universities worldwide in the latest Times Higher Education Subject ranking for clinical, preclinical and health sciences as well as equal 64th in the THE World University Rankings rankings Monash is uniquely placed to leverage its international campuses and strong international partnerships and has see first hand the rewards of collaboration to find innovative solutions to tackle today’s global health problems.
Working together with the National University of Singapore, researchers have adapted new cancer and pan-influenza vaccine technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, targeted at the elderly. Their proof of concept studies have triggered long term immunity in animal models and when preclinical validation has been completed, this promising vaccine candidate could enter clinical trials rapidly as manufacturing capabilities are readily available in both Singapore and Australia.
Associate Professors Mireille Lahoud and Irina Caminschi from the Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), together with Associate Professor Sylvie Alonso from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS), have spent 12 years developing a patented platform technology that triggers immunity against diseases ranging from cancer, influenza and other infectious diseases and are now using the technology to target the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2.
According to Associate Professor Lahoud, what is unique about this vaccine platform is that it harnesses a cell within the immune system – called the dendritic cell – which fast tracks the triggering of an immune response in important T and B cells. Importantly, they have shown the vaccine stimulates both antibody responses and long-term memory in immune cells, which is the cornerstone of a successful vaccine.
The platform technology has already been shown to work in proof-of-concept experiments in pre-clinical studies targeting both cancer and influenza.
Importantly the study found that this vaccine stimulated a strong immune response against COVID-19 in both young and old mice. “Given the enormous impact that COVID-19 has had on aged care facilities globally, there is an urgent need for a vaccine that can work in older people, who often have weakened immunity and do not respond as effectively to vaccines,” Associate Professor Lahoud said.
The researchers have already developed a lead vaccine candidate against COVID-19 which stimulates the dendritic cell pathway. According to Associate Professor Caminschi, the aim is to conduct further animal studies and then target clinical trials of the vaccine for older patients if funding can be secured.
The Monash-Singapore research team is working to raise funds to develop this COVID-19 vaccine platform.
“The outcomes of this development would be critical for COVID-19, but would also advance the platform enabling a rapid response to future viral outbreaks and for improved cancer immunotherapy,” Associate Professor Lahoud said.
We are at the forefront of urgent research to resolve and respond to COVID-19, with over 150 research projects across health, business, technology, governance, sustainability, and more. Explore more COVID-19 Research from Monash University at
Find out more about how Monash BDI’s COVID-19 Program is contributing to global efforts to solve the scientific challenges posed by the coronavirus at