The University of Queensland, Australia, announced in February 2023 that a university-led research effort had secured almost $8 million in philanthropic funding. The researchers are trying to develop an mRNA vaccine against Group A Streptococcus (Strep A), with the possibility of reducing the more than 500,000 deaths each year.  

The team comprises researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ), the University of Melbourne, the Murdoch Children’s Research Insititute, Emory University, CONACYT, and Moderna, with support from the Leducq Foundation.  

Promising research and innovation 

Professor Mark Walker from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience is encouraged by promising efficacy data from preclinical studies. In collaboration with Moderna, and with support from the Leducq Foundation, he hopes to “build on research already underway”.  Although there is no vaccine for prevention of Strep A, it is a “major driver of antibiotic use in children”, the university reports.  

“Repeated infections can lead to rheumatic heart disease, the most significant cause of childhood death due to heart failure.”  

Dr David Milan is Leducq’s Chief Scientific Officer. Dr Milan is “excited about the potential” of a vaccine to “significantly reduce not only strep throat infections but subsequent rheumatic heart disease”. This is a “major source of mortality” particularly in LMICs.  

UQ and Moderna 

Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Deborah Terry, is extremely grateful for the recognition and support from the Foundation. 

“It is a great example of how industry, academia, and philanthropic organisations can work together to tackle some oof the world’s significant global public health challenges.”  

Moderna’s Dr Obadiah Plante is “excited to develop” an mRNA vaccine for Strep A, and looks forward to continuing the partnership to “accelerate this research”.  

“This brings together Moderna’s research team and leaders in the Strep A field across research, immunology, and clinical practice to address a common goal.”  

For more on childhood vaccinations and mRNA vaccine technology, join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April.