Out of sight – an exhibition that explains cancer to members of the low vision community

Outreach programs at universities often involve displays, exhibitions, lectures and other forms of public engagement.  Researchers within the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have developed a unique program targeted at those who have low vision or are blind.

Called the Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day, the program has travelled nationally – most recently on show at the Lion’s Eye Institute in Perth, and was a finalist for the 2019 Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion.

This year’s exhibition, to be held on Friday 6 December at Monash University’s Clayton campus will focus on cancer research. With tactile 3D models, 2D graphic displays, olfactory displays, large print and braille formats, the event will be specifically geared to a low vision/blind audience.

Professor Roger Daly, Head of the Monash BDI’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Cancer Program, is hosting the event.

“We take for granted, when talking to students, the general public and even patients, that they can see what we are talking about when describing what happens in cancer at a cellular and anatomical level,” Professor Daly said.

“For those who have low or no vision, using words is often not enough – so programs that can convert these scientific concepts into tactile and audible demonstrations are enormously valuable,” he said.

Last year, the Monash BDI’s Professor Jamie Rossjohn recruited Dr Erica Tandori, who is also legally blind, as an artist-in-residence to produce art that could explain infection and immunity to the blind and those with low vision and provide expert advice for the activities in the exhibition. This year, Dr Tandori will produce a completely new suite of tactile art and models that depict cells and cell division, tumour growth and invasion, standard and new, targeted cancer treatments and more.

Exhibition visitors will have access to 3D models of cancer cells, and immerse themselves in interactive activities and sessions on cancer research. Participants will also be able to experience Monash University’s CAVE2 facility which is a 360 degree immersive experience that will have cancer related molecules projected onto enormous surround-screens.

“We’ll have 2D and 3D models, tactile posters and interactive art. The exhibition even includes soft toys of cancer cells that can be healed when flipped inside out, so that people can experience different textures in a hands-on learning activity,” said Monash BDI’s Dr Kylie Wagstaff, who is coordinating the day.

“All of the models will be accompanied by descriptions in both large text and braille and we will have volunteers from our research community on hand to guide the participants and to explain concepts and answer questions. Each small group topic will have interactive and sensory displays suitable for all ages- we really want this to be an inspiring multi-sensory experience. We are encouraging everyone to attend, as we have activities that will appeal to all,” Dr Wagstaff said.

The Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day will be held on Friday 6 December at Monash University, Clayton campus. Click here to find out more and to register.

postdoc

Congratulations to Martin Davey

Congratulations to our very own Martin Davey, who has just received an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA). The DECRA scheme supports research in areas of critical national importance by enabling outstanding Australian and international early career researchers to conduct their research in Australia.

Martin will receive more than $425,000 for his research project titled ‘Defining the basis of unconventional immune cell development’. With this funding, he aims to undertake discovery research to characterise the transcriptional programs that underpin the development of unconventional immune cells.

Unconventional T lymphocytes are a poorly understood component of the immune system but emerge very early in mammalian life. T cells are defined by their expression of a T cell receptor (TCR), however while the majority express diverse ab TCRs (‘conventional’), the remaining cells express either an alternative γδ TCR or a highly constrained ab TCR (‘unconventional’). The study of the developmental origins of human unconventional immune cells is an emerging and important area of basic research and discovery.

“The development of the immune system in early life is now thought to be critical to our response to immune challenges in adulthood, such as microbial infections. I aim to generate new knowledge in this area by using cutting-edge transcriptome analysis and cellular immunophenotyping at the single cell level to examine the seeding of unconventional immune cells,” Martin said.

“This project aims to advance our understanding of immune cell biology and the programs that control them, while significantly strengthening national excellence in unconventional immune cell research and providing innovative methodology,” he said.

Original article

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Congratulations to Erica Tandori

Our artist in residence, Erica is one of eighteen local creative practitioners and collectives that have received support through the Creators Fund to undertake intensive research, experimentation and development that will take their careers, practice and businesses to a new level.

An initiative of the Creative State strategy, the Creators Fund takes inspiration from initiatives in the science and technology sectors by offering practitioners support to undertake the R&D that underpins major new projects, products and discoveries.

The latest Creators will take between 3-6 months out from their regular practice to focus on learning new skills, working with mentors, exploring new technologies and undertaking creative experiments.

154 applications were received for the latest round. The 18 Creators will share in grants totalling $679,086.

Erica Tandori, Total funding $30,270

Development and exploration of ways to incorporate interactive, novel display and robotic technologies, as well as living organisms, into future sculptural artworks that use food, clay and paper to convey key biomedicine concepts to low vision and blind audiences.

Original article

Congratulations to Richard Berry

Our very own Group leader, Richard has been awarded a 5 year Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowship.  This is richly deserved recognition for his sustained high level contributions to biomedical science.

Richard will receive $1.25 million ($250,000 per year for five years) to support his research into how viruses and tumours escape cellular immunity.

According to Richard, the immune system is uniquely equipped to detect foreign invaders and abnormal cells. However, viral infections and cancer remain extremely prevalent within the human population, where they create significant burden to the health and wellbeing of society due to their remarkable ability to hide from our immune system.

Understanding the process of immune escape has been critical to the recent breakthrough success of cancer immunotherapy. Richard aims to build on this body of work by studying how cancers and a certain group of viruses, known as cytomegaloviruses (CMV) avoid immune recognition.

“I became interested in CMVs because they are a group of widespread and potentially deadly pathogens that are the undisputed masters of immune escape,” said Richard.

CMVs are able to hide, undetected within our bodies because they have evolved an arsenal of ‘immunoevasins’, which are molecules that function to dampen or otherwise subvert our immune system.

“Identifying the mechanisms by which CMV mediates immune escape will lead to the development of novel strategies to boost the ability of the immune system to combat human diseases,” Richard explained.

This year, the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation* brought together the Viertel funding with additional funds from two other charitable trusts to make a third fellowship, which was awarded to Richard Berry.

“I’m very grateful to the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation, Cross Family Trust and Frank Alexander Charitable Trust for the opportunity to explore this area of research. With the support of this fellowship, I hope to identify new mechanisms of immune escape and translate this knowledge into innovative therapies that will benefit the human population” Richard said.

“Medical research, and many innovations to advance our community our community, social, economic and health wellbeing, rely on philanthropy. For nearly 25 years, Sylvia and Charles Viertel’s legacy has been honoured through the fellowships and the establishment of an impressive alumni of medical researchers,” said Jodi Kennedy, General Manager of Charitable Trusts and Philanthropy, Equity Trustees.

Professor Peter Leedman, Chairman of the Viertel Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, revealed that the 2019 applications for the Fellowships were of an extremely high standard.

“Each year we are impressed by the quality of the candidates and the incredible work they are doing in pursuit of new diagnostics, treatments and preventative strategies for some of our most intractable medical problems,” said Professor Leedman.

Two other Australian researchers were announced 2019 Senior Medical Research Fellows: Professor Andrew Steer from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Dr Tracy Putoczki from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

This article is based on a media release originally published by Equity Trustees. Read the full media release.

Click the link for more about the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation.

*The Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation is managed by Equity Trustees in partnership with co-trustees Justice Debra Mullins AO (Chair), Rex Freudenberg and Paul de Silva.

Original article