AITHM scientist’s global role in TB vaccine research
Cairns-based researcher Dr Andreas Kupz has joined a select group of scientists who steer an international research network funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr Kupz, a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University, is now a member of the Advisory Council of the Collaboration for TB Vaccine Discovery (CTVD), which includes scientists from such prestigious research institutions as Harvard and Oxford universities, the Institut Pasteur in France, and the US-based National Institutes of Health – the world’s largest biomedical research agency.
“It’s a very significant achievement for the AITHM to have a representative on this council, which has only 14 members globally,” Dr Kupz said.
“The CTVD is one of the most influential groups in the world, in terms of guiding the course of TB vaccine research internationally. It has a very strong voice and provides expert advice on research priorities to many major global funding agencies.”
According to the World Health Organisation, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death world-wide, and the leading cause from a single infectious agent.
“Multidrug-resistant TB remains a public health crisis, and that is why work on new vaccines is so important,” Dr Kupz said.
“At AITHM we work with Australian and international collaborators to develop and test potential new vaccines, as well as to improve the effectiveness of existing treatments.
“Being in this kind of global consortium will help us expand our networks, and give us better insight into the bigger picture of how funding flows.”
Dr Kupz’s membership of the CTVD follows on from his election in late 2019 as co-chair of the Live Attenuated Vaccines Research Community, one of seven specialised groups working on vaccines for tuberculosis (TB).
This working group includes scientists who have vaccines currently undergoing clinical trials, microbiologists (such as Dr Kupz) focused on the design of new vaccine candidates, and researchers supervising vaccine trials in TB hot spots such as South Africa and India.
Since Dr Kupz became co-chair of the group, it has decided to diversify its membership, recruiting experts from other areas.
“For example, we could work with people with expertise in machine learning, bioinformatics or even experience in other pathogens, to revitalise this whole field of TB research,” he said.
Dr Kupz recently returned from the annual meeting of the CTVD Advisory Council held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he provided an update on the research priorities of the Live Attenuated Vaccines Community, which develops vaccines that contain live bacteria that have been weakened (attenuated) to stimulate immunity to TB.