News & events

New Insights into Immune Function: Changing Our Understanding of B Cell Biology

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pictured is Dr Jonathan Roco with artwork by Kelli Owen. 

A new study conducted by researchers at the Centre for Personalised Immunology has revised the historical assumptions about the timing and location of the key immune function known as class switch recombination (CSR).

For years, the idea that CSR was a process exclusive of germinal centres was one of the central dogmas in the field of immunology, however this research shows that this is not the case.

“This finding has important implications for our fundamental understanding of B cell biology and the way our bodies fight infection, challenging our current view that germinal centres are the preferred sites where CSR takes place during an immune response” said Dr Jonathan Roco, lead researcher of the study.

In Memory of Alan Harvey

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pictured: Alan Harvey and his wife, Bev. 

The 19th August 2019 marks 10 years since Alan Harvey passed away. In his memory, his family started the Alan Harvey CVID Research Endowment.

In a message from Bev, Alan’s wife, to our community she said:

Today marks ten years since my husband Alan passed away. When Al died in 2009 at the age of 57, besides our family’s heartfelt personal loss, there was a deep sense of the premature loss to the community of his intellect, Forestry knowledge and personal qualities of courage, strength, perseverance and achievement. In his remembrance we initiated the Alan Harvey CVID Research Endowment at ANU, his old uni, to provide a lasting legacy for research to help ensure advances in treatment for Common Variable Immune Deficiency and other genetic autoimmune diseases. The Endowment is now helping to support a PhD student concentrating in this field.

$10 million bequest to tackle rare autoimmune disease

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Treatment for a rare and currently incurable autoimmune disease has been given a major boost thanks to a $10 million bequest made to The Australian National University (ANU). 
 
The $10 million comes from Jenny and Bruce Pryor, who both passed away in 2017, and is the largest bequest the University has ever received.  
 
The money will establish the Jenny and Bruce Pryor Research Fellowship at the ANU Centre for Personalised Immunology and be used to research dermatomyositis - which Jenny suffered from in her later years.
 
Dermatomyositis, or DM, is a rare autoimmune disease that causes chronic muscle inflammation, pain and weakness.
 
Co-director of the ANU Centre for Personalised Immunology Professor Carola Vinuesa said the funding would unlock vital work that "will give sufferers new hope for a cure". 
 
"DM is a rare disease that affects about one in 100,000 people and therefore not a prominent part of current large research programs," Professor Vinuesa said. 
 

New cell discovery that could stop allergies and deadly anaphylaxis

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A new cell type that could stop allergies before they begin has been discovered by researchers at The Centre for Personalised Immunology.

In Australia, 1 in 5 people suffer from allergic conditions and this finding gives hope to people who live with a range of allergic conditions including asthma, eczema and life-threatening anaphylaxis.

“In allergic individuals, the immune system thinks that harmless particles like peanuts, dust or common allergens are a threat, and then mounts an immune response which manifests itself from mild localised symptoms like a runny nose during hay fever season, to very aggressive systemic inflammation like anaphylaxis.” said lead researcher and PhD scholar Pablo F Canete, in the ANU press release.

The cell discovered in this research prevent immune overactivity by secreting a signal to stop production of the antibody, Immunoglobulin E (IgE). It is already known that this antibody (IgE) is the key trigger of allergic reactions.

Research Collaboration Celebrated at The Festival of Australia

Friday, June 7, 2019

Professor Carola Vinuesa, director of the Centre for Personalised Immunology (CPI) presented the keynote speech at the Festival of Australia, hosted by Renji Hospital in Shanghai.

The Festival of Australia celebrated the signing of an agreement between primary care nurses in Australia and China, to facilitate the primary care of patients in both nations.

As part of the festival, the CPI hosted a two-day research symposium at Renji Hospital in conjunction with the China-Australia Centre for Personalised Immunology (CACPI). The CACPI is part of the strategic alliance between CPI, ANU and Renji Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School and was established in 2016.

Professor Vinuesa and Professor Nan Shen, co-direcotrs of the CACPI, also celebrated the expansion of the CACPI laboratory that now covers two floors of the Renji Hospital. This extension of the current CACPI laboratory will be used by CPI staff and dedicated Chinese staff in ongoing collaborations between the two groups.

Groundbreaking genetic discovery shows why Lupus develops

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pictured (L-R) Professor Carola Vinuesa, Dr Vicki Athanasopoulos, Dr Simon Jiang

In a world first, researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have shown previously ignored rare genetic mutations are a major cause of lupus.

The discovery is set to change our understanding of the causes of disease and potentially save lives.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that has no cure. It targets the body's healthy tissue, causing inflammation, damage and pain.

Until now, the exact cause of the disease has been poorly understood.

That's changed thanks to a genetic breakthrough by ANU researchers Dr Simon Jiang, Dr Vicki Athanasopoulos and Professor Carola Vinuesa.

Dr Jiang has spent six years analysing the genetic instructions locked in DNA which lead to the disease.

Genomic Medicine Now a Reality for Canberrans

Monday, March 18, 2019

Genomics is cutting-edge medicine. Patients who are battling rare or life-threatening diseases can have their genetic make-up analysed in order for personally tailored treatment and medication plans to be developed to manage and treat their conditions.

CCG now meets the rigorous standards required for National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation, and is built on the capacity of discovery genomics research at John Curtin School of Medical Research.

$10 Million for Research into Precision Medicine

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Liberal National Government is investing $10 million in research that will help use a person’s DNA and their environment to help create personalised medicine.

The funding will go to Australian National University (ANU) for the Phenomics Translation Initiative, a two year program to develop new diagnostic and treatment options for people living with chronic and debilitating diseases including lupus, type 1 diabetes and age-related macular degeneration.

It will build on ANU’s internationally recognised capability and infrastructure to fast track our understanding of how our DNA can improve how diseases are diagnosed, treated and possibly cured.

Phenomics research helps us understand how our environment makes us more or less susceptible to a wide range of common diseases, including how individuals react to therapies.

This research will enable therapies and treatments to be tailored to the patient rather than treating the patient generically based on the disease – the treatment is personalised for that patient.

Rare Disease Day 2019: Bridging Health and Social Care

Friday, March 8, 2019

Rare Disease Day is held on the last day of February each year. This year, the CPI joined the worldwide community to raise awareness of rare diseases by holding a public lecture at the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

A rare disease is a life-threatening or chronically debilitating disease or condition which is uncommon in the general population. It is estimated that 6 – 8% of Australians are affected by rare diseases. Worldwide, 6,000 to 8,000 rare diseases have so far been identified. Researchers at the Centre for Personalised immunology, we work on identifying new, rare immune diseases and continue research on diseases already described.

The 7th Annual John Curtin Lecture in Medical Research

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Photo supplied by the NHMRC. 

Since 2010, the award of “John Curtin Lecturer” has been made annually, at the invitation of The Director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research. This year Professor Vinuesa was asked to give the lecture on a topic of her choosing, in recognition of her scientific achievement.

Professor Vinuesa spoke about understanding the causes of human autoimmune diseases and developing more effective treatment.

Autoimmune diseases arise when our immune cells turn against our own tissues and cells, damaging or destroying them. There are over different 80 autoimmune diseases affecting 3-5% of the population, and no cures.

In order to develop better and more effective treatments, it is imperative to understand the molecular and genetic causes of these diseases. Our classical mouse-to-human approaches provided useful insights into the cells and pathways involved in the control of antibody responses. Nevertheless, a block in translation into more effective therapies has remained.

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