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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.

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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.

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Biochemistry Fellowships for ECRS including our own Gabby Watson

Two early career researchers (ECRs) from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have received Fellowships from the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), in recognition of their outstanding work in their field.

Congratulations to Dr Gabby Watson from the Rossjohn lab and Dr Chris Stubenrauch from the Lithgow lab.

Dr Gabby Watson’s postgraduate research utilised structural biology to design and characterise cyclic peptides targeted to an intracellular breast cancer protein, Grb7. This resulted in six publications, many as first-author, including two in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

She is currently investigating the complexities and specificities of ligand recognition by the inhibitory receptor CD96, an emerging target for cancer immunotherapy, with some of this research recently published in Structure.

This ASBMB Fellowship will enable Dr Watson to travel to Vienna, Austria, to present her latest research at the 32nd European Crystallographic Meeting.

“I am honoured to receive an ASBMB Fellowship, and grateful to have the opportunity to discuss our recent discoveries on CD96 ligand recognition with experts in the European crystallographic community,” Dr Watson said.

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Jamie awarded the ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship

Professor Jamie Rossjohn has been awarded a highly prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship from theAustralian Research Council, worth $2.9 million over five years.

NHMRC Australia Fellow, Professor Jamie Rossjohn, from the Biomedicine Discovery Institute, was announced as a recipient of the 2016 Australian Laureate Fellowship at a ceremony in Canberra on Friday.

This fellowship will help Professor Rossjohn to continue his research into how key immune recognition events enable immunity.

Professor Rossjohn said his project would be supported by the cross-disciplinary approaches within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, key platform technologies at Monash and the Australian Synchrotron.

“This recognition is always a consequence of a team effort – students and researchers of the laboratory, collaborators, and Monash University,” Professor Rossjohn said.

“I would like to acknowledge the support of the ARC team within the Monash Research Office – they were superb in ensuring my application was in the best possible shape,” he said.

Most recognised for his contributions to understanding the function and dysfunction of the immune system, Professor Rossjohn has provided profound insight into T-cell biology. He has used structural biology to explain T-cell development and pioneered our understanding of lipid-based immunity by T-cells, recently showing how vitamin B metabolites represent an entirely new and important target for the immune system.

The Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, on Friday announced the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowships at the ceremony in Canberra.

“We must continue to encourage not only the brightest Australian minds to explore opportunities here, but also to attract the best from overseas to share their knowledge in Australia,” Senator Birmingham said.

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