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Research funding for needle-free vaccines and turning household waste into automobile fuel

17 November 2021

Nineteen Queensland researchers have been awarded Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships.

The fellowships cover a range of topics, including the production of value-added products from fire extinguishers and fire waste to the early detection of chronic heart conditions using an artificial intelligence prediction model and the recycling of plastic to make railway sleepers.

The fellowships are critical investment in Queensland’s economic future, providing the foundations for new and exciting future industries as well as helping our traditional industries become more high-tech and more efficient, giving them the cutting-edge in highly competitive national and global markets.

The current round is paying out $4.96 million. Since 2016, almost $45 million has been awarded for almost 200 fellowships.

An important component of the fellowships is that researchers must partner with industry. This is to ensure the research addresses real-world problems and has real-life application.

Dr Christopher McMillan from The University of Queensland has been awarded a $240 000 fellowship to work with Vaxxas, a Queensland biotech company that is developing a needle-free technology for vaccine administration.

The Vaxxas’ HD-MAP uses a patch with thousands of vaccine-coated microprojections that is applied to the skin.

Dr McMillian is looking to couple the HD-MAP with nucleic acid vaccines, a new type of vaccine technology that includes DNA and mRNA vaccines.

Renowned examples include COVID-19 mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna.

“Nucleic acid vaccines are extremely adaptable, making them ideal for pandemic response,” Dr McMillan said.

“However, the big issue with nucleic acid vaccines is that they require multi-dose regimes, in the case of DNA vaccines, and ultra-low temperature storage, in the case of mRNA vaccines.

“They are also difficult to manufacture, distribute and administer to patients.”

Dr McMillan said the Vaxxas HD-MAP offered the potential to overcome these challenges.

“Some of the big benefits are that the HD-MAP doesn’t require refrigeration and could potentially be self-administered, providing enormous public health value.

“If we can successfully couple nucleic acid vaccines with the HD-MAP, that will be a game changer, allowing us to vaccinate millions of people very quickly – which will be extremely important if we have to face future pandemics.”

Vaxxas Chief Executive Officer David Hoey said Dr McMillan’s Fellowship was hugely important.

“This gives us the opportunity to accelerate our work with nucleic acid vaccines — one of the greatest advancements in modern science — and test their suitability for the Vaxxas HD-MAP,” Mr Hoey said.

“This work has the potential to create a larger pipeline of vaccines for Vaxxas, and accelerate the creation of high-paying, technology jobs in Queensland.”

Dr Jahirul Islam from CQUniversity in Rockhampton received a $360,000 fellowship to produce transport-grade fuel from household and industry waste that ends up in landfill.

“Waste-to-fuel technology has the potential for addressing both Queensland’s energy shortfalls and waste management issues at the same time,” Dr Islam said.

Dr Islam will work with renewable fuels company SynBio and the Northern Oil Refinery at Yarwun near Gladstone to develop the technology.

“The ultimate aim is to establish an industrial scale automobile fuel-processing plant from municipal solid waste,” Dr Islam said.

The processing of mixed solid waste into fuel comes with a number of technical challenges, which Dr Islam’s fellowship seeks to overcome.

A full list of 2021 Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellows is available at: https://advance.qld.gov.au/industry-research-fellowships-recipients