Dr Isaac Sakala is an immunologist at Vaxine, a biotechnology company at Flinders Medical Centre funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop novel vaccine technologies, and a Conjoint Lecturer (Level B) at Flinders University. Vaxine is behind COVAX-19®, the first SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine developed in the Southern Hemisphere to enter human trials. This candidate COVID-19 vaccine is being trialled on 40 people in Adelaide. Dr Sakala has broad expertise in immune responses to viral and mycobacterial infections, virus-encoded immune evasion proteins and their effects on host immune response to infection and vaccination. He has, especially, strong experience in infection/vaccination-induced gamma/delta TCR T and mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, and adaptive T/B lymphocytes functions. His current research, supported by NIH Adjuvant Discovery Contract to Professor Nikolai Petrovsky and NHMRC grant to Professor James Triccas (The University of Sydney), focuses on development of neonatal influenza and tuberculosis vaccines and how they may be made more effective by novel adjuvants or vaccine delivery systems.
1. Vaccines and vaccinology: Discover and develop innovative vaccines to protect against influenza (seasonal and pandemic), coronavirus (COVID-19), tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, and other infectious diseases. Evaluating vaccine antigens containing novel adjuvants for immunogenicity and efficacy, as well as safety testing, mechanisms of immunogenicity and protection, and correlating immune responses to protection.
2. Novel adjuvants and vaccine delivery systems/strategies: Adjuvant discovery (including combination adjuvantation systems) and characterising mechanism of action for enhancing immunogenicity as well as mechanisms that may impact safety, to help us address specific vaccination problems such as reduced vaccine responses in neonatal, elderly and immunocompromised populations.
3. Allergen-specific immunotherapy: Study the potential of novel adjuvants to modulate the immune response elicited by allergen to a tolerogenic one (to desensitise the host to a specific allergen).
Postdoctoral Research Fellowships, Saint Louis University and Washington University, Saint Louis, MO USA: 2009 – 2015.
PhD (Immunology), The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601: 2008.
BSc. Biomedical Sciences (with merit), The University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia): 2003.
Diploma in Biomedical Sciences (with merit), Evelyn Hone College, Lusaka, Zambia): 1994.
2014: Trainee Abstract Award (The American Association of Immunologists).
2011: High Achievement Award (The Biomedical Society of Zambia, Lusaka Zambia).
2008: The Alan and Elizabeth Finkel Price for 2008 to recognize outstanding achievement in research carried out in the John Curtin School of Medical Research (The Australian National University), which has potential to lead to improvements in health in developing countries.
2007: Vice Chancellor Higher Degree Research Students Travel Grant (The Australian National University) and Postgraduate Student International Travel Fellowship (Australasian Society for Immunology, ASI).
2006: ASI Travel Grant.
2005: International PhD Scholarship (The Australian National University).
2004: Master of Philosophy (MPhil) scholarship (The Australian National University).
2002: Keystone Symposium Conference/Travel Grant (NIH/NIAID).
2000: Staff Development Scholarship (The University of Zambia, Lusaka Zambia). Scholarship in Advanced Training in Tropical Medicine (WHO and Medecins Sans Frontieres, Italy).
1998: Travel/Conference Fellowship, International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Travel/Conference Scholarship, British Society of Animal Sciences.
1994: Biomedical Sciences Best Graduating Student Award (Evelyn Hone College, Lusaka, Zambia).
Career research outputs
My NCBI Bibliography:
Research scientist: Research planning and execution
Research staff supervision
Preparing Animal Ethics and IBC applications
Animal Ethics Review Sub-committee and Animal Welfare Committee Member
Teach immunology topics in the Bachelor of Medical Science (BMedSci) programme i.e. MMED2935 Human Immunology and Infectious Diseases and MMED3939 Medical Virology, Immunology and Immunopathogenesis.
Local Organising Committee for the 48th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology (ASI 2019, Adelaide)
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