Homegrown hero taskforce working round the clock
THEY'RE working tirelessly to save the world, but aren't in capes or spandex - these Gold Coast heroes prefer the humble lab coat.
Using Australian-first research techniques, a homegrown taskforce at Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics have been working around the clock to develop both vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus.
For the past six weeks, four separate teams of expert scientists have been working to target different aspects of COVID-19 to help the fight against the global pandemic.
● Investigating the impact of more than 3000 existing drugs on a synthetic and living COVID-19 virus.
● Finding critical target points on the virus to develop a highly focused vaccine.
● Testing drug and vaccines to stop the entry of the virus into human cells.
"We aren't putting all of our eggs in one basket," institute director Professor Mark von Itzstein AO said.
"This multi-pronged approach between highly skilled infectious diseases experts in the institute and Queensland Health departments including Gold Coast University Hospital and Forensic Scientific Services, as well as international organisations coupled with our institute's state-of-the-art research facilities and equipment, provides much hope in the fight against COVID-19.
"We are, in my view, the only institute that is using this multi-pronged and integrated approach to tackle COVID-19 head on."
The institute is also the only one in the country to use advanced ex vivo (outside the body) human respiratory cells in their research.
The cells, which have been taken from the back of donors noses and lungs, allow researchers to view the impact on a real human system without needing a human patient.
The teams are led by the institute's group leaders Prof von Itzstein AO, Professor Michael Good AO, Professor Michael Jennings and Professor Johnson Mak, all world-renowned scientists in their various fields of infectious diseases research.
Prof von Itzstein said although each team possessed a specific focus and strategy, they were working closely with one another and international partners, sharing information, ideas and results, to find innovative ways to tackle the disease.
"As an institute this is our mission, to fight diseases of global impact," Prof von Itzstein said. "This is what we are here for, we want to establish a rapid response and make a valuable contribution to the cure wherever it may be found in the world."
"It is scary when a virus emerges like this where we have no drugs, or vaccine.
"We have an obligation as an institute to work as hard as we can.
"The real pressure is ensuring our teams aren't fatigued as we can be working our labs 24/7.
"The virus doesn't stop just because it turns five pm."
Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty AC from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne, said the Gold Coast institute's Australian- first approach was "exciting".
"We urgently need solutions for this disease," Prof Doherty said. "Drugs to prevent or treat COVID-19 and a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 are required … now.
"The Institute for Glycomics' integrated approach is exciting, adding to the world's COVID-19 research efforts and I look forward to learning more of their outcomes, that will advance our knowledge, resources, and opportunities for collaboration so we can get to the end goal faster."
Originally published as Inside story: Homegrown hero taskforce working round the clock