CSL celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016 by making a long-term commitment to scientific research in Australia. This year, the winners of the CSL Centenary Fellowships are Associate Professor Daniel Watterson from the University of Queensland in Brisbane and Dr. Stephin Vervoort of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
The five-year fellowships, each worth AUD $1.25 million (about USD$931,000), foster excellence in medical research by supporting mid-career Australian scientists.
Watterson will use his fellowship award to identify and manufacture anti-viral antibodies and deliver them to patients using mRNA (messenger RNA). He is one of the inventors of the molecular clamp technology that holds a virus spike protein in its original form so it can generate an immune response in a vaccine.
Molecular clamp technology – originally used to develop a potential Australian COVID-19 vaccine last year – could dramatically reduce the amount of time vaccine development takes. Molecular clamps also could enable rapid development of anti-viral drugs.
Vervoot will use his CSL Centenary Fellowship to unravel fundamental steps in DNA transcription. This knowledge could identify possible small molecule drugs able to target acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and other cancers. He wants to uncover more about how genes are regulated and how that dysregulation fuels fast-growing cancers.