In the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) funding, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researchers have been awarded 14 Discovery Project grants, worth more than $7 million.
The funded projects are expected to advance knowledge in a range of areas, from understanding why it is that mammalian eggs have so much mitochondrial DNA to defining how signalling pathways regulate organ size, extracting energy from air and many more innovative research projects.
Announced last week, the ARC’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Judi Zielke PSM, said that the Discovery Projects scheme supports individual researchers or research teams to innovate and build the ‘new’ knowledge essential for a knowledge-based economy.
Monash University ranked third in the ARC Discovery Projects scheme (DP23).
Professor John Carroll, Director of the Monash BDI, said that the outstanding results speak to the high calibre of researchers at the Institute, and illustrate the strength of BDI’s research initiatives.
“This is an incredible result, demonstrating our ability to deliver positive impact globally through fundamental discovery research. Congratulations to all of our researchers who have been successful at securing this highly competitive funding,” Professor Carroll said.
“I’d also like to thank the ARC for this funding, and to say that our researchers appreciate the timely release of these funding outcomes.”
“It was an incredibly competitive year, and commiserations go to those who missed out,” he said.
Congratulations to the following Monash BDI researchers, who are leading projects that received ARC DP23 funding:
Dr Benjamin Gully
Project title: In depth characterisation of the gamma delta T cell immune synapse
Dr Deepak Adhikari
Project title: Understanding why mammalian eggs have so much mitochondrial DNA
Dr Peter Boag
Project title: Biomolecular condensates in mRNA-regulation in germ cells
https://rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/41.jpg500500Jennifer Huynh//rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/monash.pngJennifer Huynh2022-11-29 13:23:322022-12-15 13:28:06Congrats Ben on your successful ARC discovery grant
Monash academics named among the global top one per cent
Twenty Monash University researchers have been named as the world’s most influential academics in their fields as part of Clarivate’s list of Highly Cited Researchers for 2022.
The annual list identifies global research scientists and social scientists among the world’s top one per cent of researchers who have published the highest number of peer-reviewed scientific papers cited by other researchers in their work.
The Highly Cited Researchers 2022 list uses both quantitative and qualitative analysis to identify individuals from across the globe who have demonstrated significant and broad influence in their chosen field or fields of research.
The preliminary list of Highly Cited Researchers is drawn from the highly cited papers that rank in the top one per cent by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science citation index over the past decade.
The methodology that determines the “who’s who” of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at Clarivate.
Clarivate recognised 7,225 researchers from 69 countries this year. Australia is ranked 5th globally for highly cited researchers, with 337 people on the list, representing 4.7 per cent of the total list. Clarivate notes this is remarkable for a country the size of Australia with 25 million people.
“This is global recognition of the exceptional influence and impact of Monash researchers. Not only does Monash have a wide range of disciplines represented on the list, but also those whose work crosses multiple disciplines.”
“We are proud to have so many researchers named in the top one per cent globally and this speaks to the quality of our researchers’ work, their collaborations and the influence they have in their fields.”
List of Highly Cited Researchers – Monash University
https://rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Jr-new-3.png271238Jennifer Huynh//rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/monash.pngJennifer Huynh2022-11-16 12:00:182022-12-01 13:10:32Jamie on the Clarivate’s list of Highly Cited Researchers for 2022 (that's 5 consecutive years).
Monash BDI early career researchers awarded more than $2m ARC DECRA funding
Five Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researchers have been awarded $2.23 million under the 2023 ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.
Minister for Education, Hon Jason Clare MP, announced $85 million for 200 projects nationwide to support early career researchers under the DECRA scheme.
Researchers at the Monash BDI received five awards to support a diverse range of discovery research into nanobiotechnology, bacterial membrane remodelling, microbial life in the atmosphere, lipid-mediated T cell immunity, and understanding how T cells recognise and respond to foreign antigens.
“This success is a testament to the depth of excellence in our early career researcher cohort, and I congratulate this outstanding group of recipients,” said Professor John Carroll, Director of the Monash BDI.
This project involves the discovery of novel lipids produced by the microbiome that play a significant role in T cell-mediated immunity. Using a combination of cutting-edge technologies such as mass spectrometry, protein crystallography, immunology and biophysics, this project will elucidate the molecular factors that govern the interaction between the identified lipids and T cells. This innovative research will provide fundamental insights into the recognition mechanism of lipids by T cells at a molecular level, thus broadening our knowledge in the field of biological sciences. The expected research outcomes will increase Australia’s international research standing in this burgeoning area of lipid-mediated T cell immunity.
This project aims to characterise a new molecular machine, called the S-Pump. Molecular machines drive the complex biology in all cells and are an exciting area of translational research, with broad potential for industrial applications. This project expects to provide fundamental insights into how bacterial S-Pumps contribute to antimicrobial resistance and enhancing food production. Expected outcomes include new tools for molecular machine discovery and identification of ways to adapt molecular machines for biotechnological applications. This work should enhance Australia-UK ties through collaboration, provide benefits toward nanobiotechnology and economic benefits through more efficient food production.
This project aims to elucidate the fundamental mechanism of lipid remodelling in the Gram-negative outer membrane, which is critical both in preventing noxious compounds and evading host immune defence. For the first time, the complex interplay between bacterial cellular metabolism and membrane remodelling will be defined through systems pharmacology, and the precise membrane-peptide interaction will be examined by computational and biophysical approaches. Novel knowledge will be generated to improve our understanding of how bacteria remodel their outer membrane in response to environmental stress. This will benefit the future design of much-needed antimicrobial strategies including products and technologies to target bacterial membranes.
This project aims to resolve the nature and basis of microbial life in the atmosphere, the largest but most unexplored potential ecosystem on Earth. The atmosphere plays a role in transporting microbes, but our understanding of resident atmospheric microbial communities and their role in global atmospheric processes is minimal. Using cutting-edge molecular and biogeochemical approaches, this project aims to identify true microbial residents of the atmosphere, understand their mechanisms for survival in this environment and explore their role in seeding newly formed environments. The anticipated outcomes include fundamental knowledge on atmospheric microbial ecosystems, and their influence on global atmospheric processes.
This proposal aims to define the key mechanisms that determine how T cells recognise and respond to foreign antigens; a critical feature that defines effective immunity. To achieve this goal, this proposal will leverage multidisciplinary collaborations and innovative methods to understand how structural and biochemical features of T cell receptor recognition influence T cell mediated immunity and development. In turn, this project will facilitate further research and development in the burgeoning field of T cell biology and advance life science research in Australia. Furthermore, as T cell biology is relevant to all vertebrates, this research will greatly benefit the conservation of threatened animal species and agriculture.
The DECRA scheme is designed to expand the knowledge base and research capacity in Australia and to provide economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for Australia.
A full list of the 2023 ARC DECRA recipients and their projects is available on the ARC website.
Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning seven discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection, Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.
https://rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Praveena_Nov2021.jpeg350555Jennifer Huynh//rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/monash.pngJennifer Huynh2022-10-06 11:05:082022-10-06 11:05:08Congrats Praveena on the award of the ARC DECRA
They join the EMBO community of more than 1,900 leading life scientists in Europe and beyond
By EMBO Communications
6 July 2022 – EMBO announces that 67 researchers have been elected to its membership. Through this lifelong honour, new EMBO Members and Associate Members are recognized for their outstanding achievements in the life sciences.
The newly elected members reside in 22 countries. The 58 new EMBO Members are based in 15 member states of the EMBC, the intergovernmental organization that funds the major EMBO Programmes and activities. The nine new EMBO Associate Members reside in seven countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, India, Singapore, and the US.
“The new EMBO Members and Associate Members are exceptional scientists, who carry out leading research across a variety of fields, ranging from cell biology and cancer to vaccine development and machine learning,” says EMBO Director Fiona Watt. “I am delighted to welcome them to EMBO, and I know that they will enrich the life of the organization immensely.”
Members provide guidance and support for EMBO activities, for example by evaluating funding applications, serving on EMBO Council and committees, or joining the editorial boards of EMBO Press journals. Through their involvement, members help to shape the direction of life sciences, foster the careers of young researchers, and strengthen the research communities in Europe and beyond.
New members are nominated and elected by the existing EMBO Membership. The annual process ensures a broad scope with the flexibility to expand into newly emerging fields in the life sciences.
EMBO will formally welcome the new members at the annual Members’ Meeting in Heidelberg between 26 and 28 October 2022.
An online directory listing all members, their affiliations, and subject areas is available here.
67 life scientists have been elected to the EMBO Membership, 58 EMBO Members and nine Associate Members.
https://rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Jr-new-1.png494453Jennifer Huynh//rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/monash.pngJennifer Huynh2022-07-07 15:56:582022-07-07 15:56:58Congrats Jamie on being elected as an EMBO Associate Member
Professor Jamie Rossjohn is internationally recognised for using structural biology to investigate how T cells can respond to viral infections or cause autoimmunity. Now, he’s been named a fellow of the oldest science academy in the world.
Monash University life scientist Professor Jamie Rossjohn – recently awarded one of world science’s highest honours, a Fellowship of the Royal Society (FRS) – grew up in the town of Llantwit Major in South Wales. One of his earliest influences in science was his grandad, Foster Lewis.
“He was a great man,” Professor Rossjohn says. As a boy, he would share his homework with his mother’s father, talk to him, listen to him, and learn from him.
“I spent a lot of time with my grandad, who wrote a book about his experiences as a South Wales coal miner. He emphasised the importance of getting an education. He started to instill in me the need to study.
“My mother and father, Janice and Brinley John, also from South Wales, fully supported and encouraged my education. I always remember looking at my dad’s university textbooks and being amazed by the complexity.”
Professor Rossjohn FRS is just the second Monash academic in the University’s 60-year history to be made a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, a UK-based science fellowship that’s been recognising exceptional scientists since 1660 – it’s the oldest science academy in the world.
The Royal Society inducts about 60 distinguished scientists a year from around the world. Some previous inductees only require surnames – Einstein, Darwin, Newton, Hodgkin.
Immunity on the molecular level
Professor Rossjohn is based at Monash’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute within the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. He investigates the molecular bases underpinning immunity.
He’s internationally recognised for using structural biology to investigate how T cells can respond to viral infections or cause autoimmunity. Alongside his colleagues, he’s published more than 460 research papers, and is a highly-cited researcher.
He received the news from the Royal Society in early May, and will travel to London in July to deliver a presentation, meet other Fellows, and sign the 350-plus-year-old Royal Society charter book.
“You don’t do science to get awards,” he says. “You do science to investigate the unknown. Then, if you ultimately get recognised by your peers in this manner, that’s overwhelming. So it’s certainly a special moment.”
Professor Rossjohn was influenced by schoolteachers and university supervisors who helped him chart a course in scientific research. He also credits his family’s strong support.
At Llanillitud Fawr Comprehensive School in Wales were Mrs Griffiths and Mrs Thomas, biology and chemistry teachers, respectively.
“They were both brilliant in terms of the passion that they instilled, which helped drive the desire to learn. I became, I think, better and better under their guidance, and started studying and questioning more. They really helped shape me.”
He says Griffiths and Thomas – who he met up with four years ago in Wales – suggested if he did well enough at school, he could go to university for a degree in biochemistry.
In his final years at school, he was finding maths challenging, so went to his father’s books.
“I just remember one summer borrowing one of my dad’s university textbooks on differentiation and integration, and just making myself understand it.”
The path to Bath
After high school he crossed the border into England and did what his teachers had suggested – study biochemistry at the University of Bath.
“I remember the first person I met there during my undergraduate interview was Michael Danson (now Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at Bath), and I was talking to him about biochemical pathways, straight off the bat, even before I had been accepted. He ended up being my tutor all the way through my undergraduate degree, and was one of my PhD co-supervisors.”
Professor Rossjohn spoke with his PhD supervisors recently about being made a Fellow of the Royal Society.
“I simply wanted to thank them for all that they did for me at university,” he says.
He recognises that, outside academic circles, relatively few know much about the Royal Society. He says he would describe it as the “International hall of fame for sport, or Oscars’ lifetime achievement award”, but he’s one of those researchers who doesn’t seek the limelight.
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” he quotes a well-known proverb.
“To be internationally competitive for a sustained period of time, you need to be a team player. I’ve been fortunate to have some great collaborators and researchers within my team, including honours and PhD students, research assistants and post-docs whom I’ve mentored over the past 20 years. In total, members of the lab have been awarded about 40 nationally competitive fellowships.”
Honoured by the Royal Society
The Royal Society citation describes Professor Rossjohn’s science in detail. It says:
“[He] is principally known for his contributions to the understanding of disease and the vertebrate host response, both from the aspect of protective and deleterious immunity. Namely, he has used structural biology to understand how T cell receptors recognise peptides, lipids and metabolites. Specifically, he has unearthed structural mechanisms of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) polymorphism impacting on viral immunity, drug and food hypersensitivities and T cell-mediated autoimmunity.
“Rossjohn has pioneered our molecular understanding of how T cells bind lipid-based antigens presented by the CD1 family,” it says. “He has elucidated the structural basis of how vitamin B metabolites are presented by the MHC class I related protein, MR1; this revealed an entirely new class of antigen for T cells.”
The scientific focus towards these exact elements of science came near the end of his undergraduate degree when Professor Rossjohn had started to consider a PhD.
“I was fortunate to meet Professor Garry Taylor, a structural biologist recently recruited to Bath University, and I was fascinated by protein molecules rotating on his computer screen. I thought, ‘OK, you can get direct insight into protein structure and function here.’ I think that just naturally appealed to me. Garry was also a really generous person, and we hit it off. But I’ll never develop his interest in organ recitals.”
“You don’t do science to get awards. You do science to investigate the unknown.”
For his PhD, he studied the protein structure of a thermophilic enzyme, during which time, in China at an x-ray crystallography conference, he met Professor Michael Parker, a structural biologist, whose work interested him.
Professor Rossjohn then secured a one-year travelling scholarship from the Royal Society – the same Royal Society that honours him now – to enable him to work in Professor Parker’s lab at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, in Australia.He had met his wife, Lisa, in 1987 at Bath University. They married in 1994, and embarked on a life in Australia. They have three children – Siân (25), Bevan (22), and Hannah (13).
“Bruce gave me a great piece of advice, which is: ‘Momentum in science is so hard to get, but so easy to lose.’ You should not rest on your laurels,” Rossjohn says.
“You capitalise on your breakthrough so you’re not a follower of the field, you’re a leader, and you bring the team with you, always in the pursuit of new knowledge.
“Science is written in chapters, not books. Sometimes these discoveries can take a decade to complete. So you’ve got to be pretty determined to do that.”
The beginnings of a 20-year collaboration
After being awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship, Professor Rossjohn started at Monash in 2002, which is when he began looking into the functioning of the immune system and T cells.
He met Professor James McCluskey FAA AO, from the University of Melbourne, and the two began a highly productive 20–plus-year collaboration to look at T cell function in protective and aberrant immunity.
“From acorns, oak trees grow,” he says. “We made some insights with a string of papers on antiviral T cell immunity in the early 2000s.
“We started to build momentum in the research program, and collaborations extended to numerous immunologists, including professors Tony Purcell, Steve Turner, Nicole La Gruta, Andrew Brooks, Katherine Kedzierska, Dale Godfrey and Mariapia Degli-Esposti [from UoM and Monash], David Price and Andrew Sewell [Cardiff], Laurent Gapin [Colorado], and Branch Moody [Harvard].
“Simultaneously, a structural biology program at Monash Clayton was established with the support from Professor Christina Mitchell and Professor Warwick Anderson.
“My colleague, Professor James Whisstock, was instrumental in co-establishing a vibrant structural biology community. It was a lot of fun up in the old biochemistry building, Building 13D.
“Monash provided me with an opportunity to flourish. A little bit of success, a little bit of grant support, and then the momentum kept on building.
“It’s fair to state we ended up becoming quite a powerhouse in structural biology in Australia, with the continuous support from Monash University senior executives, including professors Christina Mitchell, Edwina Cornish, Pauline Nestor, Ian Smith, and John Carroll.”
A breakthrough Nature paper
In 2007, Professor Rossjohn and colleagues published a paper in Nature that showed for the first time how a T cell receptor can interact with a lipid-based molecule when presented by a molecule called CD1d.
“That was quite important and rather … let’s just say, intense. That’s when we started to really make our international mark in the field, and now we sought to make a sustained high-level contribution.
“With grant and fellowship-based funding, including from the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council, we were able to conduct more basic and applied investigations.”
A string of highly influential papers in T cell-mediated immunity, published in Nature, Science, Cell, and many more high-impact international journals, followed.
As an aside, Professor Rossjohn enjoys walking his dogs (Ziggy and Amber), serving his cats (Jett, Simba and Fudge), and runs long-distance after about 10 years doing judo at a reasonable level.
“I’ve always been OK at running, and I decided just to start doing a bit of competitive running as a member of Glenhuntly Athletics Club in more recent times. It’s a good counterbalance from work.”
Artist-in-residence makes science accessible
The Rossjohn Lab has had a unique addition since 2018 – a legally-blind artist-in-residence. Professor Rossjohn says one of his interests – aside from running a long way, and T cell receptors – is making science accessible.
He says he reflected not too long ago and wondered if he would have had the same opportunities in his career if he had a disability. The answer, he concluded, was “most unlikely”.
The artist, Dr Erica Tandori, came on board four years ago to make tactile, artistic displays of immune receptor concepts, an initiative that’s since won the Monash University 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Award, been a finalist in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion in 2019, and in 2020 a finalist in the “Science Breakthroughs of the Year – Science in the Arts” category at the Falling Walls Conference and Berlin Science Week.
“We take the beauty of the light microscope for granted,” he says. “We can see the marvels of the natural world, and with a high-powered microscope (the synchrotron) we can see atomic details of molecules. And it dawned on me that the microscope is essentially inaccessible to the low-vision and blind community”.
Not long after Dr Tandori arrived, in May 2018 a Sensory Scienceexhibition was held at the University’s Clayton campus.
“I wanted the exhibition to be on campus, because I wanted the low-vision and blind community to experience being at a university and to learn some science,” Professor Rossjohn says. “We had about 100 people from the community come to the exhibition, and numerous volunteers from the laboratories within the Biomedicine Discovery Institute.
“I’ve been doing science for a very long time,” he says, “and this was probably the most instantly rewarding day ever.”
Maintaining the momentum
Meanwhile, the lab at Monash is continuing its work on the immune system.
“We’re constantly looking at problems related to immune recognition. We spend a lot of time investigating how different molecules can activate the immune system, and how this relates to viral immunity, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease.
“Support from the biotechnology industry continues to be instrumental in being able to fast-track basic discoveries towards novel immunotherapies.”
The challenges are many and the science difficult, but Professor Rossjohn’s mantra of “momentum” holds firm.
“It’s discovery science,” he says. “You may have a setback, but you don’t take it lying down. You’ve got to fight your corner. That’s why we fight so hard to work at the highest level, and we’re still fighting extremely hard 20 years later, and always will.”
https://rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Jamie-Rossjohn.jpg350555Jennifer Huynh//rossjohnlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/monash.pngJennifer Huynh2022-06-24 11:50:182022-06-24 11:50:18Jamie featured in Monash Lens