News & events

Academy honours JCSMR scientist

The Australian Academy of Science has honoured scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) for their work and discoveries in the core of the earth, astronomy, rocket science and the human immune system.

Four ANU scientists - Professor Martin Asplund, Professor Christine Charles, Professor Malcolm Sambridge and Professor Carola Vinuesa - are among the 21 new Fellows elected to the Academy.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young AO congratulated the new Fellows and said the range of their research underlined the breadth of scientific research at ANU.

"I congratulate the four new Fellows, not only for their excellent careers, but for the leadership they have shown in their fields," Professor Young said.

"Their contribution to the research community exemplifies what makes ANU a world-class university."

ANU medical researcher nationally recognised

Immunologist Professor Carola Vinuesa has been recognised for excellence in medical research.

Professor Vinuesa, who is Head of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), has received the 2015 Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research.

The award honours Professor Vinuesa's work in antibody responses and the discovery of genes and pathways that prevent autoimmune diseases, which has opened up new avenues to diagnosis and treatment.

"I feel honoured. It is nice to know the community and our peers appreciate the work that we do and that people think that what we do is useful," she said.

"This award is recognition not of me alone but of my whole team. I've been very fortunate as I think I've got a really incredible international team that work very hard and are very motivated and extremely bright."

Benefactors Cynthia Harvey and her husband Gary Vipond were welcomed this month at the Centre for Personalised Immunology

Benefactors Cynthia Harvey and her husband Gary Vipond were welcomed this month at the Centre for Personalised Immunology (CPI) at The John Curtin School of Medical Research.

Visiting from Queensland, they met with Directors Professor Matthew Cook and Professor Carola Vinuesa and were given a tour of the school, enabling them to see first-hand how their contributions to The Alan Harvey Research Endowment had helped researchers.

The Endowment has raised over $100,000 for research into CVID (Common Variable Immune Deficiency). Some of the funds have been used to purchase a Neon Transfection system, a next generation electroporation device that is highly efficient at transfection of difficult-to-transfect cells. This system is needed to test the function of specific gene variants involved in immune disease. Funds will also support genome sequencing of immunodeficient patients, providing a foundation for further research on genes that cause CVID.

Inaugural School of Personalised Immunology educates Clinicians on Genomic Medicine

The inaugural School of Personalised Immunology was held at JCSMR on the 2-3 May 2015. Convened by Associate Professor David Fulcher the School had 70 attendees including Clinicians, GPs and medical students from hospitals and research institutes in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Hong Kong. The day and a half program covered the latest technologies in phenotyping and genomic medicine for understanding and treating immune diseases. The program covered basic genomics and methodologies, bioinformatics, research models of disease, ethics and translational science.

Our international guest speaker, Professor Nan Shen, Professor of Medicine and Director of Shanghai Institute of Rheumatology, Ren Ji Hospital Shanghai Jiao Tong University, School of Medicine presented his extensive research on the role of interferon-gamma in lupus.

Among many highlights was Dr Julia Ellyard’s presentation on how she and her team were able to identify the genetic cause of lupus in a specific individual and subsequently determine a pathway for effective treatment.

School of Personalised Immunology 2015

We are pleased to announce the upcoming inaugural School of Personalised Immunology, a one and half day program aimed at educating clinicians, GPs, registrars and medical students with no prior knowledge assumed on the latest technologies in phenotyping and genomic medicine for understanding and treating immune diseases.

The advent of genomics is revolutionising our understanding of disease pathogenesis, and will bring within our grasp the possibility of diagnostics based on understanding the cause of disease, not just its end-organ manifestations. This possibility, which is rapidly becoming a reality, has the potential to allow individualisation of therapeutic intervention to each patient. The personalised medicine revolution is occurring now, and will impact greatly on the lives of every physician practising over the coming decades.

CPI receives 2.5 million in funding

Chief Invetsigators from CPI

A new Centre for Research Excellence, the Centre for Personalised Immunology, will receive $2.5 million in funding, over five years from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The centre is using gene sequencing technology to help fight immune system diseases.

“We have had early successes, but this large-scale funding is exhilarating. Now we can finally understand disease in individuals, this will make a huge difference to patients,” said Professor Carola Vinuesa, lead Chief Investigator on the Project and researcher from The John Curtin School of Medical Research. The Centre is a joint effort with Professor Matthew Cook, co-director of the Centre, and 8 other investigators from the ANU, Australia and overseas.

“This has been a collaborative effort 10 years in the making. This will cement the careers of a number of very bright young researchers.”

Importance of research management in the CPI presented at the Australasian Research Management Society Meeting (ARMS)

Dr Ed Bertram, Executive Officer was theme leader in the Health Stream at ARMS 2014. Ed spoke about the purpose of the CPI and bringing together of clinicians, scientists, geneticists, bioinformaticians and policy developers to work together. He also discussed the  need and use of NCRIS funded infrastructures such as the  NCI ANU supercomputer, Bio-platforms Australia genome sequencing and Australian Phenomics Network’s capabilities. The unique training and education programs and outreach to the community were discussed and Ed then gave the recent example of the discovery of a genetic cause of lupus from the centre.

Anselm Enders presents CPI at International Symposium in Korea

Anselm Enders, a chief investigator in the Centre for Personalised Immunology discussed the work and direction of the centre at an international meeting held in Yeosu, Korea.

The meeting gave an opportunity for Anselm and Executive Officer Ed Bertram to meet the Director of the new Jackson Laboratory of Genomic Medicine, Professor Charles Lee and discuss opportunities for future collaboration. This new facility has been built to lead the advance of translational genomics with the use of model organisms in the USA.  It will open in October and covers 189,000 square-feet of space and 300 scientists on the University of Connecticut health campus. At the meeting Professor Lee discussed the joint cancer genomics project between Seoul National University and his centre that has received $7.5M over 5 years from the South Korean government.


Genetic key to lupus shows potential of personalised medicine

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Medical researchers have used DNA sequencing to identify a gene variant responsible for causing lupus in a young patient.

The development shows that for the first time, it is feasible for researchers to identify the individual causes of lupus in patients by using DNA sequencing, allowing doctors to target specific treatments to individual patients.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects one in 700 Australians, predominantly young and middle aged women.

Medical researchers at the Centre for Personalised Immunology, based at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), sequenced the genes of a young girl who suffered a stroke when she was four as a result of her lupus.

“We can now target her specific disease, and make treatments that will benefit her throughout her life,” said lead researcher Dr Julia Ellyard, (pictured), from the JCSMR.

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