Molecular Immunology

Molecular Immunology

Productive immune responses using confocal microscopy
The Molecular Immunology division aims to understand the immune system and how it functions to protect us from pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, while at the same time ignoring the harmless or beneficial microbes in our environment.
By understanding the normal immune response, we aim to pinpoint the events that go awry in diseases such as lymphoma, autoimmunity or chronic infections.

Building collaborations on innate lymphocytes

Innate lymphocytes are a recently identified component of the immune system that respond spontaneously to pathogen encounter via direct recognition or activation by inflammatory molecules. These cells are emerging as critical for the prevention of many diseases, including gastrointestinal infections, asthma and type 2 diabetes.

The first Australian Innate Lymphocyte Symposium was convened at the institute in 2015. Organised by Dr Nicholas Huntington and Professor Gabrielle Belz, the meeting brought together more than 90 Australian and international researchers with the aim to promote collaboration in this new research field.

Myeloma research supported

Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of a type of immune cell called a plasma cell. Clinical haematologist Dr Pasquale Fedele has received a PhD scholarship from the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia to support his investigations into the genetic network underpinning multiple myeloma.

Dr Fedele’s research extends the research discoveries of his supervisor Professor Stephen Nutt, into the genetic control of plasma cell development. Dr Fedele is investigating how two genes called Ikaros and Aiolos control normal plasma cells, and how the therapeutic degradation of these factors may lead to myeloma cell death.

This research will contribute to a better understanding of how myeloma can be treated with existing therapies and potentially identify novel treatment targets.

Unleashing immune attack on melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and accounts for 10 per cent of cancers diagnosed in Australia. Funding from the Harry J. Lloyd Charitable Trust is enabling Dr Nicholas Huntington to develop new treatments for this disease.

Dr Huntington has studied the immune system’s natural killer (NK) cells for more than a decade, identifying how they develop and function. NK cells have an immune ‘surveillance’ role, detecting and eliminating abnormal cells from the body.

The grant is supporting Dr Huntington’s investigations into how to enhance NK cell attacks on melanoma cells.

Health impact

Cancers: leukaemia, lymphoma, melanoma, myeloma

Immune disorders: allergy, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes

Infectious disease: chronic infections, influenza, listeria, vaccines

Other: epigenetics

Division head

Professor Stephen Nutt

Lab heads

Dr Rhys Allan

Professor Gabrielle Belz

Professor Lynn Corcoran

Dr Joanna Groom (jointly with Immunology division)

Dr Axel Kallies

Dr Nicholas Huntington

Professor Li Wu, honorary

Division coordinator

Rima Darwiche