Professor Michael Good AO is on a mission to defeat malaria

The World Health Organization estimates more than 200 million cases of malaria every year cause hundreds of thousands of deaths, most of whom are children under the age of five. In Africa, a child dies every minute from malaria.

Professor Michael Good

To Professor Michael Good AO, Principal Research Leader and National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellow at Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, those statistics are unacceptable.

He has made it his life’s work to develop a vaccine capable of protecting the four billion people in 90 countries at risk of developing malaria - and he is getting seriously close.

The internationally-renowned immunity expert has just announced a major breakthrough; the result of world-first clinical trials of a whole blood-stage malaria parasite vaccine with humans. The vaccine was tested on 11 Queenslanders, including himself, and was proven to be safe and effective in inducing an immune response.

A larger study will now be conducted in Australia which, if equally successful, will be followed by trials in Uganda with the vaccine projected to be on the market within five to ten years. 

Professor Good’s journey to make a difference on a global scale began in the 1970s when he graduated from Brisbane’s University of Queensland medical school. He chose to dedicate himself to medical research rather than practising as a doctor because he realised it was the key to keeping people from getting sick in the first place.

He embarked on a PhD in immunology at the renowned Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne where his supervisor was the distinguished Australian research biologist Sir Gustav Nossal who encouraged him to pick an area to specialise in and make it his life’s passion. 

Professor Good went on to work at the National Institutes of Health in the United States and travelled to Africa. During this period his other research interest – parasitology – helped him see that the answer to developing a vaccine for malaria was inextricably tied to generating an immune response in the human body to the whole parasite.

On his return to Australia he joined the Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s (QIMR) and at the Molecular Immunology lab began his work towards a vaccine in earnest. Almost 30 years later and his proposed cure for malaria is giving real hope to millions worldwide. At the same time he is trialling a vaccine for rheumatic fever, the cause of many cardiac problems in Indigenous Australians.

Prior to joining the Gold Coast-based Institute for Glycomics, he was Director of the QIMR for 10 years. He is also a past president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, and a past Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council. In 2009 he won the prestigious Australian Museum CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science. In 2010 he was the Queensland finalist for Australian of the Year.

As his international reputation in the field of scientific research grows, along with his generosity in fostering collaboration and lobbying governments for critical infrastructure, Professor Good’s story is forever linked to Brisbane, where he was raised, studied and conducted most of his research

He is among a rapidly expanding medical research hub which is an integral part of the Brisbane story.

“South-east Queensland, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast regions, is one of the best places in the world to conduct scientific research,” Professor Good said.

“Not only are we well supported by world-class educational and research institutes like Griffith University but we also have a government that celebrates and promotes scientific excellence in medicine and other fields. When you factor in our climate and lifestyle, it’s impossible to imagine being anywhere else but in this part of the lucky country.”