Viral Immunologist Dr Adam Taylor is working hard to understand how viruses interact with our systems to help inform vaccine design and discovery. Adam is a Research Fellow in the Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics (EVIT) group within the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) where he aims to develop and introduce applicable, novel and innovative vaccines for humans. He also has four children under four years old, so he’s an extremely busy person.
Adam was drawn to a career in biomedical research because of his interest in solving problems, excitement at making new discoveries and desire to push the boundaries of knowledge. “That feeling that you get when see something for the first time that no one has ever seen before is what fascinated me so much, both in science and medical research,” he says.
“Ultimately, I aim to make an impact in infectious disease research by generating new knowledge and developing therapeutic strategies that go on to provide human health benefits.”
When the COVID-19 outbreak brought the world to a standstill, Adam turned his intentions to investigating the impact of bacterial co-infections. Why is it that COVID-19 infected patients with a bacterial co-infection have more risk of severe disease than people with the virus alone? His current research aims to analyse the effect of bacterial co-infection on outcomes for a diverse range of patients leading to better guides for the clinical management of those patients.
He hopes to uncover better outcomes for COVID-19 patients in the short-term, as well as establish more effective vaccine and antibiotic design in the long term, and better treatment management for bacterial infections.
Adam started his scientific career at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom where he pursued a degree in human genetics, honouring in disease mechanisms such as cancer biomarkers. Since moving to Australia in 2011, Adam has led projects that focus on emerging viruses, particularly the mosquito-borne viruses Zika virus and Chikungunya virus. He is particularly interested in diseases spread by mosquitoes, which cause rheumatic illness and symptoms.
“Currently Alphaviruses—such as Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and Chikungunya virus—are mosquito-borne viruses capable of causing explosive outbreaks of chronic highly debilitating and painful musculoskeletal disease,” Adam explains. “One of my projects aims to understand the benefits of exercise therapy during alphavirus infection. Our team aims to analyse the effect of exercise during alphavirus disease to create a framework to apply exercise therapy and improve the quality of life for patients with alphavirus disease.”
His impact has already been wide reaching in the industry, with his research program conceiving and developing a Chikungunya virus vaccine. “This patented vaccine has received significant interest from industry, leading to a signed sponsored research agreement and option to license the vaccine with Gamma Vaccines towards human trials,” he says.
His expertise was sought by the government agency “IP Australia” to collaborate on the production of a patent analytics report on RNA virus vaccines. “The report formed part of a suite of products released by IP Australia to assist governments and decision-makers identify know-how, supply and manufacturing of resources during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he explains. The report, published in May 2020, has had more than 460 views from 15 different countries, with portfolio ministers praising the quality and timeliness of advice in meeting the needs of government and industry.
As well as continuing his biomedical research, Adam says he hopes to inspire the next generation of researchers and equip them with the skills to make a difference in the world. “I want to produce high-quality research and convene a program of contemporary learning and teaching at a tertiary level. I aim to curate modern courses and provide students with the relevant skills for employment.”
Adam’s advice to people wanting to follow in his footsteps is to cultivate their interests and align themselves with mentors in their area. “You need to have a passion for research; a commitment and drive to make discoveries in your field,” he says.
“With every research breakthrough or successful experiment there’s an equal number of setbacks and negative results, if not more. You need to be able to ride those highs and lows. To be a successful researcher you need to align yourself with leaders in that field.”