Big win for researchers unlocking the secrets of the immune system

Australian scientists have received $80,000 to fund their high-level work on how the immune system identifies and fights disease.

A research partnership between the University of Melbourne and Monash University has won the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence. Announced on Wednesday 18 November at the Research Australia Annual Awards, the scientists were also given an accompanying grant of $80,000 to support their continued research on immunity.

Led by Professors James McCluskey and Jamie Rossjohn – the latter a Chief Investigator at the Imaging CoE – the team has discovered how the immune system recognises pathogens such as salmonella and tuberculosis. Their groundbreaking findings have revealed how a group of specialised T cells found in mucosal sites recognise the by-products made from the bacterial production of vitamin B2.

“Bacteria, not humans, manufacture vitamins, which is why we rely on our diet to provide vitamins,” explains Professor McCluskey. “We have learnt that the manufacture of vitamin B2, or riboflavin, plays an extremely important and protective role in alerting the immune system to foreign bacteria.”

The curiosity-driven research could lead to the development of novel vaccines and treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers and tuberculosis – and the GSK Award will assist the team to continue their valuable studies and nurture young talent in their laboratories.

“Winning the GSK Award for Research Excellence places our work in the public eye,” says Professor Rossjohn. “It’s early days, but the public can rest assured that our teams are working extremely hard to see where this discovery will take us. The best fundamental science will lead to the best innovative therapeutics.”

To find out more about the winning research team read an article written by RiAus.