Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo)

Research Overview

Child getting vaccinatedMan getting vaccinatedWoman getting vaccinatedOlder woman and researcher

Based at the Doherty Institute, the Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo) works in partnership with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI, Infection and Immunity Theme). Our research enables us to advise policy makers on the optimal use of vaccines in national immunisation schedules, in pandemic influenza preparedness and response, and in vaccine safety. Our work provides practical bridges (translation) between theory and
the real-world delivery of vaccine programs.

VIRGo alumni have spun off successful research programs of their own at the Doherty, the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Monash University, and at MCRI in mathematical modelling and simulation (Prof Jodie McVernon, Prof James McCaw, Dr Rob Moss); vaccine adverse event surveillance and investigation (Prof Jim Buttery, SAEFVIC (Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Vaccination In the Community); vaccine confidence (A/Prof Margie Danchin); and in allergy and vaccines (A/Prof Kirsten Perrett).

Clinical Trials

We draw on three decades of clinical trials experience to explore the effectiveness, antibody responses and safety of new vaccines in standard or novel schedules. VIRGo has been actively engaged in both industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated research (NHMRC funded), clinical trials and epidemiologic studies, whose findings have been vital for the licensure of several vaccines now in widespread use in Australia and/or elsewhere in the world. Vaccines evaluated have included those classified as GMOs, live-attenuated intranasal vaccines, as well as oral and conventional parenteral vaccines. We have conducted research in pregnancy, neonates, infancy, childhood, adolescence and in adults. Our research has also included adults for high priority conditions such as seasonal and pandemic influenza. We pioneered the use of a home-based recruitment and research model using mobile teams of research staff, but have also employed more conventional venues such as the Clinical Trials Centre at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and in primary healthcare venues at the University of Melbourne. Subject recruitment has often been facilitated by use of Australia’s Immunisation Registry, now a whole of life register.

Vaccines studied

    Pandemic vaccines: Influenza H5N1, H1N1
    Infant/toddler combinations: Pentavalent and hexavalent combinations, HibMenC and HibMenCY, MMRV
    Respiratory Syncitial Virus: Maternal and toddler, recombinant protein and vectored vaccines
    Meningococcus: Meningococcus B (4- and 2-component), meningococcus ACWY conjugate vaccines, meningococcus ABCWY
    Adolescent and adult vaccines: HPV, HSV2, seasonal and pandemic influenza

Current*, planned and possible studies (mid 2020-2021):
*Quadrivalent cell culture inactivated influenza vaccine Phase III/IV
*RSV adenovirus vectored vaccine Phase I
*Pneumococcal vaccine 15vPCV Phase III
Meningococcus MenABCWY Phase III
Meningococcus MenABCWY Phase III (prior MenACWY)
Pregnancy RSV vaccine Phase III
COVID (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines Phase II
RSV Live-attenuated vaccine Phase II
Pertussis Live-attenuated vaccine Phase I/II

Epidemiologic Studies
  • Maternal influenza vaccination and impact on infant influenza illness
  • Rotavirus vaccines and possible reduced incidence of Type 1 Diabetes
  • Data linkage, and statewide perinatal data studies on maternal pertussis vaccine (Tdap) uptake and effectiveness against infant pertussis
  • Past virus discovery research collaborating with University of Queensland, including novel coronavirus NL63 virus discovery

Vax4COVID logo

Led by VIRGo at the Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, Vax4COVID is an alliance of experienced Australian vaccine clinical trial centres formed to facilitate the conduct of
Phase II trials of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates.

H1N1, US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)Banner image: H1N1, US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

VIRGo contact details

G06, 766 Elizabeth Street
Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
The University of Melbourne
Victoria, 3010, Australia
Tel: +61 3 8344 9325


Prof Terry Nolan (Unit Head)
Marita Kefford (Research Manager)
Dr Briony Price (Senior Research Officer)
Dr Lana Horng (Study Doctor)
Clare Brophy (Research Assistant)
Janet Briggs (Research Assistant)
Annmarie McEvoy (Research Assistant)
Jane Ryrie (Research Assistant)
Bernie McCudden (Phlebotomist)
Catherine Sheehan (Phlebotomist)
Samara Griffin (Research Assistant)
Anna Bourke (Research Assistant)

A/Prof Margie Danchin (associate)
A/Prof Kirsten Perrett (associate)

Research Projects

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Head of VIRGo Professor Terry Nolan, AO

Department / Centre

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Unit / Centre

MDHS Research library
Explore by researcher, school, project or topic.