MCM Blog

DMTC Collaboration Award to Dr Mitali Sarkar-Tyson

Dr Mitali Sarkar-Tyson from the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Western Australia received the coveted Collaboration Award at the 2020 DMTC Annual Conference.

(c) DMTC Ltd

Dr Sarkar-Tyson with CEO DMTC, Dr Mark Hodge, and special guest dinner speaker Adam Goodes (right)

Dr Sarkar-Tyson has shown an incredible work ethic and commitment to developing our sovereign industrial capability in the medical countermeasures domain over the last several years.

She is currently leading a DMTC project out of The University of Western Australia in collaboration with DST Group, the Peter Doherty Institute, the University of Wurzburg, the University of Exeter, DSTL and now Monash University. This project is developing novel anti-virulence compounds against a range of bio-warfare pathogens. In addition to the highly significant research she has conducted for this project, she has also contributed to 72 scientific research publications across the fields of antimicrobial resistance and molecular biology.

The DMTC Collaboration Award recognises an individual who embodies the spirit of collaboration, and Dr Sarkar-Tyson has truly embodied collaboration through bringing together a network of international researchers and coordinating a multi-disciplinary team that can respond to bio-threat pathogens and the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

Posted by Emily Kibble on April 14th, 2020

DMTC Project Leadership Award to Professor Flavia Huygens

Professor Flavia Huygens received the Project Leadership Award at the 2020 DMTC Annual Conference.

Professor Huygens receiving the Project Leadership Award from CEO DMTC, Dr Mark Hodge (left) and special guest dinner speaker Adam Goodes (right)

Professor Huygens is Associate Director at the Institute of Health Biomedical Innovation (QIMR-Berghofer), a Professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at Queensland University of Technology and a director of Australian med-tech start-up company, Microbio.

Professor Huygens has shown excellent project leadership over the last year in seamlessly bringing together a multidisciplinary team from academia and industry to develop a rapid diagnostic with her company Microbio, which is helping to address significant issues in the diagnosis of bio-threat pathogens.

She is the pioneer behind the technology of InfectID®, which uses novel and innovative bioinformatic tools to genetically identify blood/plasma borne bacteria. This technology has been shown to distinguish between more than 10 closely related pathogens without the generation of false positives. This type of technology is critical for the military to respond to outbreaks of infection or deliberate biological attacks.

The way Professor Huygens has managed the complexities of working across partners to meet the delivery requirements has been second to none.

Posted by Emily Kibble on April 14th, 2020

DMTC Early Career Award for MCM Researcher Emily Kibble

Miss Emily Kibble was the recipient of the Early Career Award at the 2020 DMTC Annual Conference. She is currently a PhD candidate in molecular biology at Murdoch University.

PhD candidate and Early Career Research Award winner Emily Kibble with CEO DMTC, Dr Mark Hodge

Emily has produced outstanding work over the last few years in her PhD and contributed significantly to the DMTC collaborative project led by the University of Western Australia, along with DST Group, the Peter Doherty Institute, the University of Wurzburg, the University of Exeter, DSTL and now Monash University. This project focuses on the development of novel anti-virulence compounds against a range of bio-warfare pathogens.

Emily’s PhD research examines the pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningococcal disease. In particular, it focuses on the inhibition of a protein called Mip, which appears to be key for the bacteria’s development and infectivity. This inhibition could become a target for viable treatments and is highly important as there has been little research into Mip protein function in this particular pathogen.

In addition to this research, Emily has developed a novel screening mechanism to reduce the time required to test anti-virulence inhibitors against pathogens, increasing the efficiency of the testing process.

As well as receiving this award from DMTC, Emily was awarded the Australian Industry and Defence Network (AIDN) Young Achiever of the Year Award in 2018. Her contribution to DMTC has been significant, and she is very deserving of this award.

Read Emily’s recent blog post here.

Posted by Emily Kibble on April 14th, 2020

Q Fever: a very consequential query

By Dr Felicia Pradera and Miss Madeleine Walters 

Q fever has recently generated a significant amount of nationwide attention with the rise of farm lobby campaigns for access to the Q fever vaccination and the development of a Q fever National Taskforce. Nonetheless, in the medical countermeasures domain, Q fever has long been of niche interest to scientific researchers.

Q fever was first described in Queensland in 1935. It was dubbed ‘query fever’ as the symptoms were non-specific, consisting of malaise, fever, headache and chills. Infection is caused by the pathogen C.burnetii, commonly transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated agricultural products or exposure to infected livestock. (more…)

Posted by Emily Kibble on February 19th, 2020

Taking up the AMR fight

By Miss Emily Kibble, PhD Candidate at Murdoch University

My PhD researches the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. This bacterium causes the fatal invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) which manifests as an infection of the blood or infection of the lining of the brain. One in ten adults are known to carry this bacterium in their throat at any given time. Transmission from human to human occurs through close contact, therefore infection rates are higher in close living quarters, such as military barracks. Once this bacterium spreads to a susceptible person, symptoms begin within a matter of hours, and death can quickly follow (in almost half of all cases). One in five survivors will suffer from disabilities such as limb loss and brain damage. Even with an existing vaccine, the rates of IMD in Australia are scarily on the rise, with 2017 seeing the highest rates of disease in ten years. As this bacterium is becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotic treatments, looking into different approaches to overcome antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is essential.

My research investigates the impact of targeting a group of proteins, known as macrophage infectivity potentiator (Mip) proteins. When Mip proteins are inhibited, the ability of N. meningitidis to cause disease is suppressed. Therefore, a medical countermeasure (MCM) which targets Mip proteins should

• disarm the bacteria,
• interfere with the progression of disease, and, potentially,
• allow previously ineffective antibiotics to be used again.

These Mip proteins expressed by N. meningitidis are also expressed by a range of disease-causing bacteria, such as the biothreat agents, Coxiella burnetii, which causes Q fever, and Burkholderia pseudomallei which causes melioidosis. The potential of a new broad-spectrum treatment led to the current DMTC collaborative project headed by the University of Western Australia with Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group, the Peter Doherty Institute and the University of Wurzburg. It centres on targeting these Mip proteins and encompasses a range of bacteria which are of concern to both the Australian Defence Force and public health authorities, with the aim to develop a new MCM that can be used against a number of bacterial diseases.

A pathogen does not care if you are wearing a uniform or not

The overlap of risk to Defence and public health is due to the fact that bacteria do not discriminate, and nor does AMR. Any person, Defence personnel or otherwise, can become infected, and these infections are becoming harder to kill.

AMR is the ability of a bacteria to resist treatment. Using antibiotics when they are not necessary, or not completing your prescribed course of antibiotics, give bacteria the opportunity to mutate and become resistant. By 2050, the rates of AMR bacteria will have risen to such high numbers that a predicted 10 million deaths will occur each year across the globe. Resistant bacteria will make some infections impossible to treat, and make minor injuries and medical procedures life threatening.

The population of Australia will particularly suffer, as the use of antibiotics – the main cause of AMR – is higher in Australia than most other countries in the world. While the threat posed to Australia is increasing, most new drugs are modifications of previously existing antibiotics, and can only be relied on as short-term solutions. Investment and support from commercial drug makers for the development of truly novel MCMs is inconsistent. This is due largely to the small market that could constrain the return on investment, long lead times and lack of certainty of success in drug development pipelines, as well as the restrictions on future development imposed by governments.

Australia’s Department of Health has acknowledged that increased support is required for the research and development of new approaches and products to combat AMR.

More effective, long-term, medical countermeasures against AMR are becoming an increasingly urgent national requirement. Enhanced capability to combat bacterial infections, particularly as these infections become resistant to the current available treatments, is vital for the future health of the Australian population as well as better-equipped and protected Defence forces.

Posted by Emily Kibble on February 7th, 2020

Medical Countermeasures

By Dr Gregor Ferguson 

The 2016 Defence White Paper was significant for a number of reasons but for Dr Felicia Pradera, Program Manager Medical Countermeasures within DST’s Land Division at Fishermans Bend it was ground-breaking. For the first time its inclusion reflected both an official acknowledgement that medical countermeasures were a critical defence requirement, and funding from the Next Generation- Technology Fund (NGTF) would be allocated to develop this national capability.

Medical countermeasures (MCM) are vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics against Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) threats, emerging infectious diseases and pandemics. It has been said that a CBR threat does not care whether you are wearing a military uniform or not. Therefore MCMs have relevance to both civilian and military personnel making it a national security issue. (more…)

Posted by Emily Kibble on November 1st, 2019

National Innovation Award Land Forces Conference: Diagnosis at Point of Care

© Lumos Diagnostics

By Mr Harry Baxter

A DMTC project team leading advances in the development of a field-deployable, handheld Point of Care diagnostic device has been honoured with a National Innovation Award in the Combat Equipment and Mobility category at the international Land Forces 2018 Exposition.

The project involves industry partners Lumos Diagnostics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Victorian medical technology firm Planet Innovation, and Queensland-based Anteo Technologies with support from research partner Deakin University. (more…)

Posted by Emily Kibble on November 1st, 2019

Tackling the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance

By Dr Felicia Pradera and Ms Madeleine Walters

Whether Australia is adequately prepared for a future pandemic should be a key issue on our national agenda. Over the past few years, antimicrobial resistance has become an area of growing concern for our health security. According to the OECD, Australia is particularly vulnerable as our antibiotic usage is significantly higher than the organisation’s average.

The OECD has estimated that nearly 10% of infections in Australia are antimicrobial resistant and that an average of 290 people die each year due to multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. It forecasts that this number is likely to grow significantly in coming years. (more…)

Posted by Emily Kibble on October 31st, 2019