Dr Kupz says Visai’s exceptional work in the TB vaccine development program has contributed to the team’s recent grant success. Dr Kupz’s group received grants totalling almost $8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The National Institutes of Health USA and the National Health and Medical Research Council to further develop the vaccine, compare it to other vaccine candidates from around the world and to gain a better understanding of TB.
“Visai’s Honours project focused on understanding the importance of pairing genetically modified tuberculosis vaccines with different routes of delivery,” Dr Kupz says. “This research led to an internationally accepted model to compare vaccine strategies and it was published as a first-author manuscript in the prestigious international journal Science Advances.
“During his Honours year, Visai also performed a comprehensive review on the role of tissue resident memory T cells in infectious diseases and how these cells can be targeted by vaccination. This literature review was published in Frontiers in Immunology.”
Visai was awarded a Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation research grant of $5,000 and an AMUTHAN Medical Research Bursary during his time with Dr Kupz’s group.
“In addition to these outstanding achievements, he was involved in various other projects related to TB vaccine development and the testing of novel antimicrobial compounds derived from tropical plants. These side projects led to three further research publications in PNAS, Vaccine and Journal of Natural Products as well as a further review article in Clinical Translational Immunology.
Visai returned to Dr Kupz’s lab during a 10-week research elective in 2021 as part of the final year of his medical degree. “In this short time, he produced another fabulous review article, which has just been accepted in the journal International Immunology,” Dr Kupz says. “Publishing seven articles in such high-profile journals as part of an honours project is absolutely phenomenal. I would take him back into my group at any time.”
Visai is working on another research project with paediatrician Dr Thomas Volkman, looking into the utility of the Quantiferon Gold test for diagnosing tuberculosis infection in young children. “Currently it is a topic of contention, and hopefully this project will bring some clarity,” he says.