A research effort to develop an mRNA vaccine against Group A Streptococcus (Strep A) has secured almost $8 million in funding.
The Leducq Foundation has announced support for the University of Queensland-led project that could reduce Strep A infections, which cause more than 500,000 deaths a year – with about 70% resulting from rheumatic heart disease.
Professor Mark Walker from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said there was no vaccine for prevention of Strep A, but efficacy data from the team’s preclinical studies was promising.
“The support from the Leducq Foundation will allow us to build on research already underway at UQ where we have been collaborating with Moderna to develop an mRNA vaccine against Strep A,” Professor Walker said.
The Strep A bacteria causes strep throat and scarlet fever and is a major driver of antibiotic use in children. Repeated infections can lead to rheumatic heart disease, the most significant cause of childhood death due to heart failure.
Dr David Milan, Leducq Chief Scientific Officer, said this innovative approach to a Strep A vaccine fell squarely within the cardiovascular disease mission of the Leducq Foundation.
He said: “Leducq is excited about the potential of a Strep A mRNA vaccine to significantly reduce not only strep throat infections but subsequent rheumatic heart disease, a major source of mortality worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”
UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said she was extremely grateful for the Leducq Foundation’s recognition and support of the University as a centre for excellence in vaccine research and discovery.
“It is a great example of how industry, academia and philanthropic organisations can work together to tackle some of the world’s significant global public health challenges,” Professor Terry added.
Image credit: UQ