15 December 2020

peanut allergyshutterstock_257253946.jpgResearchers at UniSA and Sementis are moving a step closer to developing a vaccine for peanut allergy thanks to an NHMRC Ideas Grant that will support a team of local researchers to better understand the immune signatures critical to modulating immune responses to allergens.

World Allergy Organization data shows between 220-550 million people are vulnerable to food allergies, with peanuts being the second highest allergy in children and the most likely to cause death from anaphylaxis.

UniSA chief investigator for the project Dr Preethi Eldi says a measure of the importance of the work is data showing that in Australia the prevalence of peanut allergy has doubled in the past 10 years.

“The NHMRC Ideas Grants are awarded to innovative projects that set out to resolve specific questions; and in the work we are doing, we want to uncover more about the control and manipulation of restricted immune responses against allergens by understanding the key immune signatures that are critical to induce a vaccine-mediated shift to tolerance or allergy remission,” Dr Eldi says.

“By understanding how we can reshape the immune response, our end game is to develop a vaccine that can be safely delivered and will protect children from the restrictive and often life-threatening impacts of peanut allergy.”

The research will also help to inform a 10-year project partnered with innovative Adelaide biotechnology company,  Sementis Ltd, which has resulted in Australia’s most advanced viral-vector vaccine platform technology being used to develop vaccines for the therapeutic management of peanut and other allergies and will also have utility in infectious disease prevention with the team also working on a COVID-19 vaccine.

Leader of UniSA’s vaccine development research team, Professor John Hayball says the work being done by the team in partnership with Sementis is at the leading edge of vaccine development.

“COVID-19 has brought forward a revolution in vaccine technologies and the speed with which they are progressing through development,” Prof Hayball says.  

“Through our partnership, Sementis-UniSA has been researching and developing the SCV viral vector platform technology for the past 10 years and we now have a strong body of evidence in pre-clinical models of its effectiveness.

“Support to continue this research is vital in moving our ideas from the lab to the safe effective roll out of new vaccines.”CEO Sementis, Leanne Hobbs says the UniSA-Sementis partnership is a strong example of world class research and development happening here in South Australia.

“Our SCV technology generates strong and long-lasting immune responses and has the capacity to house large and complex disease antigens, making it a viral vector technology of choice to tackle complex diseases,” Hobbs says.

“The NHMRC Ideas grant is a welcome boost for our work to bring advanced viral-vector vaccine technology owned and developed in Australia, to the world, not only for the prevention of infectious diseases and pandemic use, but also for evaluating the therapeutic applications of this vaccines against diseases such as peanut allergy.”

The NHMRC funding provides $678,000 over a period of three years to continue this research.

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli phone: +61 418 823 673 or +61 8 8302 0966 email: michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au


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