Australian research project investigating long-term impact of COVID-19 awarded 2021 Gilead Fellowship Grant
- Five diverse research projects spanning COVID-19, HIV, hepatitis C elimination, CAR T cell therapy and fungal infections are the 2021 recipients of the Gilead Fellowship Research Grant.
- Now in its 11th year, the Fellowship has granted more than $2.6 million to research projects throughout Australia which often struggle to secure funding or face high competition.
Gilead Sciences Australia today announced the five recipients of the 2021 Gilead Fellowship Research Grants Program one of which will investigate the medium- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on patients’ health and wellbeing.
Grant recipient Professor Kumar Visvanathan, Infectious Diseases Physician, Academic Lead of Medicine at the University of Melbourne campus and Co-Director of the Immunology Research Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne will follow almost 100 individuals with confirmed COVID-19 infection over a six month period to look at COVID-19’s impact on their immunological response and any residual symptoms they may have had.
St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne was one of the hospitals treating COVID-19 patients during Melbourne’s 2020 outbreak, with Professor Visvanathan one of the treating clinicians at the hospital.
“The funding from the 2021 Gilead Fellowship Grant means that we may be able to answer some important questions about the length of a patient’s immunological response to COVID-19 post infection but also to other infectious diseases and broader impacts it may have on long term health,” said Professor Visvanathan.
“We still have so much to learn about this virus and natural immunity post infection, and this is particularly important as we roll out vaccines and start to measure durability of protection. We are also investigating if there is any impact from COVID-19 on our immunological response by testing immune responses to past vaccinations such as mumps and measles and more broadly the physical and psychological impact on a patient’s quality of life.”
The Kirby Institute’s project led by Dr Benjamin Bavinton, Senior Research Fellow and Group Leader, Biobehavioural Prevention Research Group, HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program, will evaluate the effect of changes to HIV clinical practice during the COVID-19 pandemic on testing, monitoring and care of people living with HIV in Australia with a future focus to share best practice.
“The COVID-19 environment drove rapid, innovative clinical responses to the care of people living with HIV and to sexual health service provision. This project will evaluate these clinical practices via qualitative interviews with HIV and sexual health service providers along with a survey of patients so successful adaptations can inform future care models,” said Dr Bavinton.
A total of $300,000 was split between the five recipients, which also include projects aimed at increasing hepatitis C virus treatment uptake amongst people who inject drugs, understanding how to keep cancer destroying CAR T cells working for longer, and determining Aspergillus fumigatus resistance rates to optimise screening and treatment strategies for fungal infections associated with chronic lung disease or lung transplantation.
Dr Paul Slade, Senior Director Medical Affairs Gilead Sciences ANZ, said: “The Australian research and clinical community has been at the forefront of informing and shaping best practice in patient care. However, there is also increasing competition for limited funding, which has been particularly true in the COVID-19 environment. Gilead is proud to continue to provide opportunities for ongoing local scientific investigation and research to support patient outcomes.
“This year’s Fellowship Grant Recipients are implementing innovative projects across Australia that seek to provide more clarity around some serious areas of uncertainty, such as the impact of COVID-19, and ultimately support enhanced healthcare provision for patients both here in Australia and across the world.”
Now in its 11th year, the Fellowship has granted over $2.6 million to research projects throughout Australia. The Fellowship strives to help bridge the gap in Australian research funding and provide support to projects which have a local community focus.
Applications are now open for 2022 Gilead Sciences Australia Fellowship Research Grants Program with more information at www.gileadfellowship.com.au
The full list of the 2021 Gilead Fellowship Research Grants recipients are:
• Professor Kumar Visvanathan Infectious Diseases Physician, Academic Lead of Medicine at the University of Melbourne campus and Co-Director of the Immunology Research Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital for research to investigate the long term general immunological responses in patients with confirmed COVID-19.
• Dr Benjamin Bavinton at the Kirby Institute to evaluate the innovations and rapid adaptations to HIV testing, monitoring and care during COVID-19 to inform future service delivery models.
• Mr Andrew Pfeffer a Clinical Consultant Pharmacist and a Director of Pharmaceutical Research Services in Logan, Queensland, to engage with local pharmacies in Logan City to increase hepatitis C treatment uptake amongst people who inject drugs as part of a micro-elimination strategy.
• Dr Adrian Minson, Aggressive Lymphoma Fellow at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre/ Royal Melbourne Hospital for research into the kinetics of CAR T cell therapies, a novel immunotherapeutic that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The project aims to uncover whether cancer-destroying function of CAR T-cells can be turned back on in patients where their function has failed, or new treatment is given.
• Professor Orla Morrissey, Infectious Diseases, at the Monash University Central Clinical School for research to determine the resistance rates to antifungal agents among patients with chronic lung disease or post-lung transplant. She will also examine the mechanisms underlying any detected resistance to enable early and correct anti-fungal treatment, improving outcomes for patients.