Academia-industry alliance towards autoimmune disease

Monash University announced today that it has signed a research collaboration   agreement with Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd. (Janssen), one of the Janssen   Pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson.

The collaboration, facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Asia   Pacific, will focus on ground-breaking research at Monash University to develop   potential new medicines to treat autoimmune diseases and disorders.

The ability of the immune system to discriminate between self and non-self-tissues is a crucial aspect of its function. The failure of some immune   cells to appropriately manage this discrimination can result in autoimmunity,   which affects millions of people worldwide with diseases  such as rheumatoid   arthritis, psoriasis and others.

While there are medications on the market that can be used to treat some of   these autoimmune diseases, there remains a substantial need for the development   of new and improved treatments.

Funding from Janssen will enable Monash University and Janssen immunology   scientists to collaboratively research the mechanisms that underlie autoimmune   diseases for the development of new and highly innovative potential   treatments.

Professor Jamie Rossjohn, from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular   Biology,  will lead the research team at Monash University on the three-year   research program.

“By understanding the molecular basis for the trigger that causes autoimmune   diseases we can uncover opportunities for novel immunotherapeutics,” said   Professor Rossjohn.

“Monash University offers us and our partners the world class research   facilities, technology, expertise and materials that are all necessary to   conduct this level of research. We are excited about the innovative therapeutic   solutions that can be developed here  at Monash when working with a collaborator like Janssen,” he said.


Original article

Top Monash researchers recognised with NHMRC Excellence Awards

Four of the NHMRC’s 20 top prizes for excellence in health and medical research have been awarded to Monash researchers.

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s Research Excellence Awards are presented to the top-ranked applicants across NHMRC’s funding schemes.

Professor Jamie Rossjohn, Associate Professor Allen Cheng, Associate Professor Terry Haines and Dr Michael Roche all from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, will accept their awards at the NHMRC’s 200th Council Dinner this evening.

Federal Minister for Health Peter Dutton will present the awards, which highlight innovative and potentially transformative research.

NHMRC Australia Fellow Professor Rossjohn, who is to receive the Highest Ranked Project Grant, is a leading international expert on processes central to infection and immunity.

The grant will allow him to further investigate a type of T-cell, termed MAIT cell, that is found in abundance in the gastrointestinal system. The research may pave the way for the development of drugs that could either stimulate or suppress activity of this type of T-cell, potentially improving treatments for conditions such as tuberculosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

“My colleagues and I were delighted to receive NHMRC project grant funding to continue our work on MAIT cells and by the subsequent recognition by the NHMRC,” Professor Jamie Rossjohn said.

Associate Professor Allen Cheng from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine receives the Highest Ranked Career Development Fellowship – Clinical, Level 2.

Based in the Department of Epidemiology & Preventative Medicine, Associate Professor Cheng is also Deputy Head of the Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology Unit at Alfred Health in Melbourne.

The Fellowship will enable Associate Professor Cheng to research ways to prevent and treat significant infections.

“I’m grateful to the NHMRC for their support in allowing me to combine research with my clinical work – I feel that it is important to provide evidence that supports clinical and public health practice. It’s   also great to work with colleagues at Alfred Health and Monash University who have been well represented amongst recipients of NHMRC Career Development Fellowships in recent years,” Associate Professor Cheng said.

Associate Professor Terry Haines, Director of the Allied Health Research Unit at Monash Health and Director of Research for the Southern Physiotherapy, receives the Highest Ranked Career Development fellowship – Population Health, Level 2.

A physiotherapist and health economist, Associate Professor Haines focuses on health services research across a range of health care settings.

“It is a great honour to be recognised by the NHMRC with this award. In saying this, I would recognise that my success would not be possible   without the contributions of staff at Monash Health where I am based,   and the many colleagues who I collaborate with locally, nationally, and   internationally,” Associate Professor Haines said.

The Fellowship will see Associate Professor Haines lead several projects including a trial introducing GPs as staff at aged-care facilities to reduce hospital admissions and improve resident care. He will also evaluate the benefits and cost effectiveness of weekend allied   health services on acute medical and surgical wards.

The NHMRC Research Excellence Awards also include some special categories to acknowledge highly promising up and coming researchers in NHMRC’s Project Grants scheme.

Dr Michael Roche from the Department of Infectious Diseases will be awarded the Frank Fenner Early Career Fellowship.

Focusing on the earliest steps of the HIV life cycle, Dr Roche’s PhD looked at how the virus became resistant to a new antiviral drug, earning him the prestigious Mollie Holman Medal from the University.

“It’s quite an honour to receive this award from the NHMRC,” Dr Roche said.

He added that the award is also a credit to his PhD supervisor Professor Paul Gorry at the Burnet Institute and reflected the high standing of Professor Sharon Lewin’s laboratory at the Department of Infectious Diseases.

For more information on the NHMRC Excellence Awards visit the NHMRC website.

Original article

Australian Academy of Science welcomes Jamie as a fellow

Professor Jamie Rossjohn, from the School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor John Bowman, from the School of Biological Sciences, have been elected 2014 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science. They were both nominated by their peers for their outstanding contributions to scientific research.

Every year the Academy honours the work of Australia’s leading scientists with election to its Fellowship. The Academy promotes science through education, public awareness, policy and international initiatives.

Professor Rossjohn, who is an NHMRC Australia Fellow from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was elected for his research into the structural basis for T-cell recognition of foreign antigens, which has had a profound impact on our understanding of autoimmunity and drug and food hypersensitivities.

“It is very humbling for my research to be recognised in this manner,” Professor Rossjohn said.

“This recognition arises from the findings that my collaborators, researchers and I have made in the field of T-cell immunology. Such findings would not have been possible without the support of the Australian Research Council, National Health and Medical Research Council and the Cancer Council Victoria.”

“Moreover, the long standing encouragement and support of Monash University, who have provided an outstanding environment for my team and me, has been a key factor in being able to undertake high profile science.”

As a member of the team that was recently awarded funding to establish the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, Professor Rossjohn said he is poised to undertake new lines of investigation in the field of immune recognition at Monash.

“Access to major national infrastructure, such as the Australian Synchrotron, has also been crucial for us to maintain a competitive edge internationally,” Professor Rossjohn said.

Another Australian Academy of Science Fellow from Monash University is Professor John Bowman, a plant geneticist at the School of Biological Sciences. He was recognised for his highly original discoveries that have revealed the genetic basis of three fundamental processes in plant development.

Professors Rossjohn and Bowman will be admitted as Fellows at Science in the Shine Dome, the Academy’s annual celebration in Canberra in May, where the 21 newly elected scientists will also present summaries of their research achievements.

Professors Rossjohn and Bowman join other research lumunaries from Monash University who have recently been elected Fellows of the Academy. They include: Professors Doug MacFarlane (2007), Charles Mackay (2009), Trevor Lithgow (2010), Joe Monaghan (2011), Bryan Williams (2013) and Yuri Estrin (2013).

Original article

Eureka Gold for Jamie, Jim and Lars

Last night at a gala event in Sydney, Australia Museum Eureka prizes were awarded for outstanding achievements in research and innovation, teaching, leadership, communication and journalism.

Of the 18 awards on offer, Professor Jamie Rossjohn, from the School of Biomedical Sciences’ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, together with Professor James McCluskey and Dr Lars Kjer-Nielsen from the University of Melbourne won the University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

The team uncovered what activates a widespread, but, until recently, mysterious gut-dwelling immune cell. They noticed that a protein from these cells only formed properly in the presence of by-products of vitamin B, which are formed by invasive bacteria and yeast. It became clear that these vitamin B metabolites were providing early warning to our immune system.

This discovery will improve our understanding of the interplay between gut bacteria and the immune system, infections from thrush to TB, and open up opportunities for vaccine development and other therapeutics.

Original article

For more information:

Image: Australian Museum Eureka Prizes and photographer Daniel O’Doherty.

Other stories: