New grant to support regional collaboration in infectious disease research

12 October 2017
Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have received new funding to tackle malaria and dengue fever in the Asia Pacific region.

A federally funded Regional Collaborations Programme grant has been awarded to Professor Alan Cowman, Dr Diana Hansen and collaborators from the Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology in Indonesia, and the Ehime University, Japan.

The grant will support research into the processes required to develop immunity and resistance to malaria and dengue fever.

Infectious disease challenges in the Asia Pacific

Dr Diana Hansen and Professor Alan Cowman
Dr Diana Hansen and Professor Alan Cowman will
lead an international collaboration to tackle malaria
and dengue fever in the Asia Pacific.

Malaria and dengue fever present a significant burden of disease to the Asia Pacific region.

The World Health Organization has identified malaria as a major public health problem in South-East Asia, with more than 120,000 deaths each year. Dengue fever is one of the most common mosquito-borne viral diseases in the world. There has been an increase in both locally acquired and imported dengue cases in Australia since 2010.

The project team will study critical immune responses and targets of protective immunity in cases of malaria to aid development of anti-malaria vaccines.

“The production of an anti-malarial vaccine would be the most cost-effective means to address the shared challenge that malaria-associated mortality and morbidity poses to our region,” Dr Hansen said.

The researchers will also identify host genes predisposing to the development of haemorrhagic dengue fever. This work will aid in the discovery of treatments for severe cases.

Building regional partnerships

Professor Cowman believes the grant will also help strengthen the relationship between Australian, Japanese and Indonesian institutions.

“This project will build the capacity of Indonesian scientists in new techniques. This is important for supporting our shared goal of alleviating the burden infectious diseases cause in our region,” said Professor Cowman.

About the Regional Collaborations Programme

The grant of more than $379,000 over three years is the largest of five grants awarded under the first round of the Regional Collaborations Programme.

The programme supports Australian-led collaborative projects seeking innovative solutions to shared challenges. It is administered by the Australian Academy of Science and is part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

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