Associate Professor Keith Chappell

Principal Research Fellow

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science

Principal Research Fellow

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

Affiliate Academic

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
+61 7 344 32597


Keith is Molecular Virologist and group leader with a dual appointment within the Australian Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Institute and the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. His research is focused on vaccine development and the understanding of medically and environmentally significant viruses. Keith is one of the inventors of a UQ’s molecular clamp platform and is the co-leader of a program to produce a vaccine for COVID-19 at UQ. Keith has played a leading role in designing and implementing an epidemic response vaccine pipeline which enabled the progression of UQ’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate from sequence information to clinical trial dosing within 6 months.

Keith completed his PhD at the University of Queensland in 2007 on the structure and function of flavivirus NS3 protease. Subsequently, he spent three years (2007-2010) as a post-doctoral researcher at one of Spain’s most respected research institutes, Instituto Salud Carlos III, where I conducted research on the fusion protein of Respiratory Syncytial viurs as a target for conformationally specific neutralizing antibodies. Keith returned to UQ in 2011 and his research has focused on understanding of many medically and environmentally important viruses and bacteria, particularly focussing on Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV), SARS-CoV-2, Koala Retrovirus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Research Impacts

Keith is the co-leader of UQ's COVID-19 vaccine program, which produced one of the first vaccines to eneter clinical trials, in just 6 months after the pandemic was announced. In phase I clinical trials, UQ's COVID-19 vaccine was shown to be safe and produce a strong neutralising immune response, however the initial version was not progressed due to the induction of response that interfered with some HIV diagnostic tests. The outcome of UQ's COVID-19 vaccine program represents an important proof of principle finding for the molecular clamp technology and the team are now re-engineering the platform to aleviate the potential for diagnostic interferance.

Keith is the co-creator of the molecular clamp platform technology, which has potential to produce vaccines for many medically significant viral pathogens. This technology has received a total of over $30 million in investment from Australian competitive grant schemes, international funders and philanthropic organisations and Keith now leads a team of 12 researchers.

Keith also works on Koala retrovirus (KoRV), which is a signficant cause of disease amongst koala populations in QLD and NSW. This work has received research support from the ARC improved our understanding of KoRV genetic diversity, mode of transmission and the fundamental process of genome immunity which mitigates against disease.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Queensland


  • Blyton, Michaela D. J., Young, Paul R., Moore, Ben D. and Chappell, Keith J. (2023). Erratum: Geographic patterns of koala retrovirus genetic diversity, endogenization, and subtype distributions (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (2022) 119 (e2122680119) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2122680119). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120 (1) e2220541120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2220541120

  • Albornoz, Eduardo A., Amarilla, Alberto A., Modhiran, Naphak, Parker, Sandra, Li, Xaria X., Wijesundara, Danushka K., Aguado, Julio, Zamora, Adriana Pliego, McMillan, Christopher L. D., Liang, Benjamin, Peng, Nias Y. G., Sng, Julian D. J., Saima, Fatema Tuj, Fung, Jenny N., Lee, John D., Paramitha, Devina, Parry, Rhys, Avumegah, Michael S., Isaacs, Ariel, Lo, Martin W., Miranda-Chacon, Zaray, Bradshaw, Daniella, Salinas-Rebolledo, Constanza, Rajapakse, Niwanthi W., Wolvetang, Ernst J., Munro, Trent P., Rojas-Fernandez, Alejandro, Young, Paul R., Stacey, Katryn J. ... Woodruff, Trent M. (2022). SARS-CoV-2 drives NLRP3 inflammasome activation in human microglia through spike protein. Molecular Psychiatry, 1-16. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01831-0

  • Joyce, Briony A., Blyton, Michaela D. J., Johnston, Stephen D., Meikle, William D., Vinette Herrin, Kimberly, Madden, Claire, Young, Paul R. and Chappell, Keith J. (2022). Diversity and transmission of koala retrovirus: a case study in three captive koala populations. Scientific Reports, 12 (1) 15787, 1-8. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-18939-6

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  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • (2019) Doctor Philosophy

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Book Chapter

  • Chappell, Keith J. and Young, Paul R. (2014). The nonstructural proteins of dengue virus. Dengue and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever: Second Edition. (pp. 377-405) edited by D. J. Gubler, Eng Eong Ooi, Subhash Vasudevan and Jeremy Farrar. Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: CABI International. doi: 10.1079/9781845939649.0377

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Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision