WEHI IMM Special Seminar hosted by Dr Cyril Seillet
Professor Valérie Verhasselt MD PhD
Director – Centre of Research for Immunology & Breastfeeding, University of Western Australia; Telethon Kids Institute
The milky way to healthy development: insights from translational research
Including Q&A session
Professor Verhasselt is the Director of the Centre of Research for Immunology and Breastfeeding at the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute (Perth, Australia). Valerie Verhasselt trained at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium) where she obtained the diploma of Medical Doctor, Specialist in Internal Medicine and a PhD in Immunology. She has 20 years of experience in translational research on the impacts of breastfeeding on a child’s immune development and health. With her team, she aims to establish the matches and, importantly, the possible mismatches, between what the infant needs for healthy development and the nutrition that they are provided.
She has revolutionized the field of allergy prevention through early oral allergen exposure with a landmark study published in Nature Medicine in 2008. This study contributed to the recent major changes in feeding guidelines for food allergy prevention, co-authored by Prof Verhasselt (European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology food allergy prevention guidelines 2021). Along with collaborators in Uganda, she is exploring a potential game changer in the field of vaccination – research providing evidence that breastfeeding may be a natural, and very efficient, way to vaccinate children and protect them from infectious diseases, including Malaria, the most severe public health problem worldwide. Prof Verhasselt’s team is also investigating the importance of colostrum for growth, allergy and infection prevention. This knowledge will inform changes in clinical practice and drive policy changes, such as increased budgets for community and health services for early breastfeeding support.
Prof Verhasselt has presented more than 40 invited lectures to international scientific immunology and nutrition meetings in the last 3 years. She also engages in regular speaking engagements at local and international meetings of stakeholders in child nutrition. She co-coordinates and lectures at the course “Breastfeeding- A Foundation for Human Health” held at The University of Western Australia. Prof Verhasselt has authored more than 80 publications, many published in top 1% Journals (Nature Medicine, JAMA Pediatrics, Gut, Lancet Infectious Disease, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology). Her research receives major financial support from the Larsson Rosenquist Foundation.
Importantly, ethics, respect, generosity and humanity are the drivers of her scientific career.