Forget all of the standard flu treatments, a universal flu vaccine might be on its way
28 August 2018

A three minute presentation in China will provide an opportunity for a University of Queensland PhD student to gain support for his work to develop a universal flu vaccine.

Christopher McMillan from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences was a finalist in UQ’s 2017 Three Minute Thesis competition, and will present his thesis at the 7th McDonnell International Scholars Academy Symposium in Beijing in mid-October.

Mr McMillan is excited by the opportunity to talk about his work internationally, even for just three minutes.

“The format started when UQ PhD students were asked to concisely pitch their ideas before a three minute water-saving shower timer ran out; the type that was common here in Brisbane during the last drought,” he said.

“It’s now held in more than 600 universities and institutions across 65 countries, and it’s a great way to get your research into the world in language that works for a non-specialist audience.”

His thesis, ‘Clamping down on the flavours of Flu’, explores his lab’s research into novel influenza vaccines.

“At the moment you have to get a new flu jab every year because the virus mutates and adapts, making last year’s vaccine ineffective,” he said.

“In fact, the current year’s vaccine sometimes isn’t very effective at all because we get the strains in the vaccine wrong, meaning people who’ve received the vaccine can still end up getting the flu.

“We need novel flu vaccines to overcome the limitations of the current vaccines, and my work focuses on making a new, universal vaccine that ideally you would only need once.

“This would protect you from all the strains of flu and would also help in the event of a flu pandemic, as current vaccines offer very limited protection in that case.”

Mr McMillan said he had received extensive support for his work.

“UQ has helped me every step of the way, and from an undergraduate level I was able to get access to research experiences through summer programs and my third year units,” he said.

“The University’s network of research collaborators has been tremendous, and I’ve had great access to international conferences.

“It’s time for me to collaborate with overseas researchers developing vaccines for viral diseases, and hopefully make a real impact and help conquer some the world’s nastiest diseases.”

Mr McMillan was presented with the Alumni Friends Golden Jubilee Lorna McReadie Bursary for his work.

Image above left: 3MT 2017 finalist Chris McMillan with Alumni Friends bursary donors Dr Melda Moffett and Topsy Moffett.

Media: Christopher McMillan,, +61 402 930 925; Dominic Jarvis,, +61 413 334 924.