COVID-19 Research at the Alliance

Staff and students of the Alfred Research Alliance are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic in more ways than one. While clinical and support staff at Alfred Health are treating those directly affected by the virus, scientists across all eight of our member organisations are joining the fight via vaccine and antiviral development, serology testing, laboratory services and public health research.

Here, you can find out more about the research projects that are currently active across the precinct and submit details of your own project below.

Active projects

Updated 25 May 2020

Name Member COVID-19 Research Project
Hagemeyer, Christoph Monash University, Central Clinical School Translational research into idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) funded by the MTPConnect Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) Program and led by the biotech company AdAlta. IPF causes scar tissue (fibrosis) to build up in the lungs, progressively diminishing lung function. The disease affects more than 500,000 people worldwide with median length of survival from diagnosis being 3 to 5 years. The team will evaluate a novel antibody (AD-214 targeting the cytokine receptor CXCR4) in preclinical animal models and in IPF patients, confirming safety, dose and binding to the target in the lung. Given the severe impact of COVID-19 on lung function in some patients, this research could have a significant impact on managing the long-term effects of the infection.
Kwan, Patrick Monash University, Central Clinical School To overcome the challenges and limitations of current COVID-19 tests, a new diagnostic test will be developed for acute COVID-19 infection (when people are asymptomatic) that uses a simpler and faster detection method of its genetic material. Instead of PCR, an alternative, newer DNA amplification technology will be used that is highly specific. This test allows for greater, more widespread testing (even remote or rural locations), which is critically needed to provide more real time diagnosis for earlier treatment (when available). Due to no medicines or vaccines currently being available for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19, and possible subsequent waves of the outbreak occurring in the near future, rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 is essential for preparedness.
van Zelm, Menno Monash University, Central Clinical School Assessment of immune response to COVID-19. Our group has developed new reagents to measure the B-cell response to COVID-19. In a local and a global collaboration, we will collect samples from infected and convalescent patients to: examine if early biomarkers predict the difference between severe and moderate disease; determine the immunohenotypic kinetics within first 4 weeks from exposure. These early studies are critical to subsequently: examine whether health care workers are naïve, at early stage of mild infection or post-infection; monitor immune responses to novel COVID-19 vaccine in a trial coordinated by collaborator. This COVID-19 work is time-critical with direct clinical applications to stratify and monitor patients, and to expedite vaccine development.
Wesselingh, Robb Monash University, Central Clinical School Characterisation of neurological manifestations of COVID-19 requires collection of clinical data of Alfred Health patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection.
Gurvich, Caroline Monash University, Central Clinical School Mental heath responses during the COVID-19 pandemic (such as development of PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety, distress etc) will be tracked in an online longitudinal survey to determine risk and protective factors for maintaining mental health. Replicating and extending a survey conducted in China following outbreak.
Thomas, Merlin Monash University, Central Clinical School Working on ACE2, the receptor for SARS CoV-2, the group has identified a novel way to modulate virus uptake and filed a provisional patent. This work may lead to a potential therapeutic strategy for COVID-19.
Rollo, Ben Monash University, Central Clinical School Using PBMC stem cell technology and established drug screening platform to screen for repurposing drugs to potentially treat/prevent COVID-19 infection, the group is part of a large stem-cell initiative to identify effects of COVID19 infection in early-stage neurons. They are particularly interested to determine functional outcomes of infection on the developing nervous system (i.e. during pregnancy).
McMahon, James Monash University, Central Clinical School Establishing a clinical database and biological bank of clinical samples from individuals with COVID-19 infection to better characterise the clinical course and pathogenesis of the infection and provide insights into potential therapeutic agents.
Lannin, Natasha Monash University, Central Clinical School Rapid implementation of tele-rehabilitation in community-based occupational and physiotherapy practices. This aim of this project is to determine which factors successfully influenced implementation and evaluate implementation efforts and which domains are most relevant to successful rapid implementation of telerehabilitation in private practice.
Collie, Alex Monash University, SPHPM The COVID-19 Work and Health Study More than a million Australians are predicted to lose employment or reduce work hours due to the pandemic. There is solid evidence that unemployment is linked with poorer health outcomes. This survey will track the mental and physical health of Australians who have lost work due to the pandemic over a six-month period. Results may inform the planning of health and social support services for government and employers.
Fisher, Jane Monash University, SPHPM How are you? Living with COVID-19 restrictions in Australia Loss of income, loss of social connectivity, increased uncertainty and navigating conflicting messages are among many sources of stress that may cause wide-spread mental health problems during the pandemic. This survey has been designed to gather a baseline snapshot of the emotional and mental health status of the nation which can be compared to snapshots from future timepoints throughout the pandemic, and be used to support recovery and plan for future pandemics.
O’Reilly, Gerard Monash University, SPHPM COV-ED QI. Emergency Departments (EDs) across Australia may be attended by tens of thousands of Australians with COVID-19 like symptoms over the coming months. This study involves ED staff completing a simple online form when they treat suspected COVID-19 patients. It could facilitate improved treatment and triaging of these patients through rapid, localised improvements such as faster identification of patients likely to be infected with the virus, and identification of patients likely to require intensive care.
Webb, Steven; Nichol, Alistair; Cheng, Allen; Green, Cameron is global project manager Monash University, SPHPM REMAP-CAP A Randomised, Embedded, Multi-factorial, Adaptive Platform Trial for Community-Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP) was conceptualised after the 2009 SARS outbreak, and was triggered into action with the COVID-19 pandemic. ICUs across the world are participating in the study which allows efficient data capture and analysis of eligible patients receiving different therapies.
Webb, Steven; Nichol, Alistair; Cheng, Allen + multiple other PIs (Udy, Andrew and Burrell, Aidan are main contacts) Monash University, SPHPM SPRINT-SARI. SPRINT SARI is an hospital-based surveillance database that will enable the real time tracking and reporting of the sickest patients with COVID-19 in Australian hospitals and Intensive Care Units. It is a major international collaboration, and is endorsed by the WHO and the ANZICS CTG. The primary aim of this study is to establish a research response capability for a future epidemic / pandemic through a global Severe, Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) observational study. The secondary aim of this study is to investigate the descriptive epidemiology and microbiology profiles of patients with SARI.
Hodgson, Carol Monash University, SPHPM EXCEL Registry Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-support process used in critical care settings to artificially oxygenate blood, particularly for patients with acute cardiac or respiratory failure. ECMO machines are expensive, staff must be extensively trained to provide competent ECMO support and individuals requiring ECMO are among the most vulnerable patients. This registry collects standardised, robust data on ECMO patients to and now incoporates COVID-19 datapoints to better understand the role of ECMO in these individuals.
Elliott, Julian Monash University, SPHPM National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce ‘Living’ guidelines are clinical guidelines that regularly and rapidly incorporate the most recent scientific evidence, as compared to traditional clinical guidelines that are often updated every few years. This taskforce, led by Cochrane Australia, is creating living clinical guidelines for COVID-19 management.
Yu, Christiaan; Aung, Ar Kar; Dabscheck, Eli; Schneider, Hans Monash University, SPHPM; Alfred Health Trending serum ACE levels and other biomarkers to predict the development of severe respiratory failure and in-patient length of stay in COVID-19 patients.
Yu, Christiaan; Aung, Ar Kar; Dabscheck, Eli Monash University, SPHPM; Alfred Health Assessing the efficacy of high flow oxygen through nasal cannula in COVID-19 patients.
Case, Rosalind Monash University, SPHPM; Alfred Health; Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health; Ambulance Victoria Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Intensive Care and Emergency Clinicians: The COV-ICE Study. A longitudinal, online study of the mental health of medical and nursing staff in intensive care and emergency departments in Victoria, Australia, with comparison to samples drawn from sites in London, UK, and New York, US. The progressive influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the psychological wellbeing of frontline health workers will be tracked at 4-weekly timepoints in order to monitor the degree of mood, anxiety, sleep and post-traumatic symptoms among clinicians. This study will also explore the relationships among occupational / workplace factors, clinician risk perceptions, and psychological risk, with findings modelled against geographic case-rate variations.
Ascher, David Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute Understanding the molecular consequences of genetic variation in COVID-19: COVID-19 mutates about the same rate as the flu. We have developed a platform for rapidly characterising the consequences of mutations on patient treatment and management. We are applying this to map the genetic changes being observed in COVID-19 around the world, and in particular what the potential consequences these might have on ongoing drug and vaccine development. Using these insights, we are helping to design new drugs and vaccines that will be less likely for COVID-19 to develop resistance against.
Ascher, David Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute Automatically Diagnosing COVID-19 Using Chest X-Rays: A critical step in the fight against COVID-19 is effective screening of infected patients, to identify those needing immediate treatment and care, or isolation to mitigate the spread of the virus. Current COVID-19 testing is very specific, but a time-consuming and complicated manual process that is in limited supply. We are using artificial intelligence to rapidly diagnose patients using their chest X-rays, differentiating COVID-19 from other infections. This will allow for more rapid patient triaging using standard and highly portable equipment available at most sites.
Drummer, Heidi Burnet Institute Developing and evaluating novel candidate vaccine antigens and serological assays to understand the immune response to COVID-19 in humans.
Anderson, David Burnet Institute Developing a rapid point-of-care test to identify people who have been infected and cleared the virus, enabling them to safely return to work post-infection, which will be critical for key services, in particular the health sector who are disproportionately exposed to infection.
Hellard, Margaret Burnet Institute Leading Burnet’s COVID-19 Public Health and Social Impact research. Current priorities include a series of studies to: assess how to reduce ongoing transmission of COVID-19; assess the impact of the broader social and economic impact of the mitigation efforts (including self-isolation) introduced by government, and identify ways to reduce negative consequences of these mitigation efforts.
Bucknall, Tracey; Khan, Shahrukh; Decker, Kelly; Saultry, Bridey; Kouzani, Abbas; Adams, Scott Deakin University and Alfred Health Evaluating the efficacy of non-touch infrared temperature scanners compared to temporal artery infrared scanners for mass fever screening. While there are accurate ways to measure temperature, the most accurate are invasive devices to measure core temperature or non-invasive devices that require direct skin contact and cleaning between users. The aim of this study is to compare temperature measurements using non-contact infrared thermometers with temporal artery thermometer measurements used widely in hospitals.
Bucknall, Tracey; Kouzani, Abbas; Adams, Scott; Decker, Kelly Deakin University and Alfred Health Evaluating the efficacy of thermal cameras as a mass fever screening tool compared to non-touch infrared temperature measurement. Thermal camera screening solutions use advanced thermal image sensors and facial targeting technology to gather temperature measurements. Yet there is a lack of independent studies into the effectiveness and efficacy of these solutions. This study will evaluate the temperature measurement capabilities of the thermal camera solutions when compared with non-touch infrared temperature measurement.
Bucknall, Tracey; Digby, Robin; Leonard, Paul; Hade, Sharon; Ihle, Josh; Orosz, Judit; Manias, Elizabeth; Haines, Kimberley Deakin University and Alfred Health Family perceptions of ICU care and communication during the COVID 19 pandemic. Family members in ICU play a critical support role for patients when they themselves may bear a large psychological burden. The COVID 19 pandemic has severely restricted visiting for families to one hour or less for COVID 19 positive patients. This study will explore the effect of the visiting limitations on the families of ICU patients, in particular the impact on communication between health professionals and families, and their participation in care of the patient.
Bucknall, Tracey; Digby, Robin; Hade, Sharon; Ihle, Josh; Orosz, Judit; Manias, Elizabeth Deakin University and Alfred Health Staff experiences using virtual communication with ICU families during the COVID 19 pandemic. In order to maintain communication between staff, families and patients during restricted visiting in ICU during the COVID 19 pandemic, alternative forms of communication were implemented to overcome the lack of face to face contact. The impact of these alternative communication channels on staff will be explored in this study.
Contact Nucleus Network Awarded two FIH COVID-19 clinical trials. One COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial is being spearheaded by an Australian organisation and the second vaccine clinical trial is developed by a North American biotechnology company.
Contact Nucleus Network The first COVID-19 clinical trial is scheduled to commence dosing at the end of May across both of our clinical trial sites in Melbourne and Brisbane.

The second COVID-19 study will commence dosing at the end of June.

Nucleus has been awarded a third COVID-19 study.

Contact 360biolabs 19 individual screening programs
Contact 360biolabs 2 clinical trials

Database updates

The database will be updated weekly. If you’re an Alfred Research Alliance researcher and would like to add a project, please contact Renee Dutton at [email protected].

Contact with project investigators

If you would like to make contact with any projects and their chief investigators, please email them directly via the links above.

Ethics approval for COVID-19 projects

The Alfred Hospital Ethics Committee is expediting the ethics approval process for all COVID-19 related projects. Find out more here.

For information about the COVID-19 ethics approval process from the Animal Ethics Committee, click here.

More information on COVID-19

For the latest updates from our members, see our weekly Around the Precinct wrap-ups.