Dr Joanna Groom

Dr Joanna Groom

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Dr Joanna Groom at a microscope

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Dr
Joanna
Groom

BSc AppSci CSU BSc (Hons) Melbourne PhD UNSW

Laboratory Head

Division:

Lab focus: T cell interactions

Our immune system consists of dedicated immune cells that collaborate to protect against infection and disease. T cells are orchestrators of immune responses and require multiple interactions with distinct partner cells to steer their function. Our laboratory dissects these interactions over the life of a T cell. 

We aim to identify how T cell interactions: 

  1. determine the clearance of pathogens (such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2) or cancer cells 
  2. are tailored between infections and go awry in asthma and lupus; and  
  3. understand how memory cells are generated and maintained for long-lived vaccine protection. 

Our goal is to apply this knowledge to therapeutically promote protection from infection and discover new avenues to overcome cancer, asthma and autoimmunity.

Research interest

Our lab uses a multi-disciplinary approach to dissect the cellular interactions that underpin immune protection and disease. Our major interests are:

  • Identifying factors that promote cell migration, and determining how these factors influence responses to acute and chronic infections, and successful vaccination.
  • Determining the spatial niches where cell differentiation decisions occur during immune responses.
  • Identifying novel mechanisms that resolve inflammation to limit immune pathology and promote life-long memory (particularly related to COVID-19).
  • Transcriptionally dissecting the cellular conversations that mediate flexible immune responses and understanding how these are altered in asthma and lupus.
  • Identifying pathways to target these processes as treatments for infectious and inflammatory diseases and to strategise vaccine design.

Systems we use include:

  • Advanced imaging methods including whole 3D organ imaging and time-lapse imaging of cell location and migration decisions.
  • Diverse infection models (viral, bacterial, helminth and fungal) and healthy and patient tissue samples to study flexible immune responses and animal models of inflammatory diseases.
  • Development and analysis of reporter and conditional knockout models to identify how new factors regulate immune protection and memory responses.
  • Global gene expression profiling of cells based on cellular interactions and positioning during immune responses.

Our researchers have identified a molecular switch that impacts immune responses to viral infections, and whether or not protective antibodies are produced.

Four researchers standing in the WEHI garden

A new imaging technique is shining a light on immune responses and setting the scene for enhancing immune memory to optimise vaccine strategies.

Three researchers in a laboratory

The COVID PROFILE study will use blood samples from people who have recovered from COVID-19, and their close contacts, to look in detail at how immunity to the disease develops, how long it lasts and what happens when immunity is lost.