Our body has evolved incredible strategies to fight off the plethora of pathogens we are facing on a daily basis. One of these is programmed cell death, a process that aims at removing infected cells, thereby killing the pathogen and priming our immune system.
Our research aims at understanding how this remarkable process is regulated on a molecular level, and to harness and translate this knowledge into new treatments for chronic and acute viral and bacterial infections including tuberculosis, HIV, COVID-19 or dengue.
Our mission is help improve patient outcomes through the development of new treatment options for some of the world’s most notorious pathogens.
Using novel technology such as CRISPR screening tools and transcriptome sequencing, we have identified that programmed cell death is regulated by flexible networks during intracellular infection. This changes the way we think about cell death, and how we can utilize its powers to control infection.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) chronically infects phagocytes in the lung, and our project aims at developing novel RNA-based therapeutics that disarm Mtbs armoury of virulence factors and induce apoptosis to boost immunity.
Team members: Jan Schafer (PhD student), George Ashdown (Postdoc)
Programmed cell death and inflammation appear to be involved in COVID-19 disease outcomes, and our project aims to identify which key players contribute to or mitigate pathology and present avenues for therapeutic intervention.
Team member: Stefanie Bader (PhD student)
Despite the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in suppressing acute HIV infection, there is no curative intervention that rids the body of the latent HIV reservoir. Our strategy of inducing cell death to kill this ‘needle in a haystack’ aims to overcome the lifelong treatment of patients with a pill every day.
Team members: Le Wang (PhD student), Kathryn Davidson (Postdoc)
Dengue fever is a vector borne viral disease and an increasing global health threat that necessitates the urgent development of new therapies. The most severe symptoms of Dengue appear to a result of dysregulated host immune response, and our work aims to understand the host factors that drive disease and to identify novel treatment targets.
Team members: William Clow (PhD student)
HTLV-1 is a virus that causes severe disease sequelae including leukemia, myelopathy and secondary bacterial lung infections. HTLV-1 is highly endemic in remote indigenous communities in rural Australia, There is no treatment and no point-of-care diagnostic tests available to detect this pathogen in the field.
Team members: Lewis Williams (Postdoc)
Cancer patients are at increased risk of infection due to immunesupression as a result of their chemotherapy. Tests that can identify the patients at risk of severe infectious complications will enable rapid and customized treatment.
Team members: Lewis Williams (Postdoc) and Clinican PhD students from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Our team collaborates with laboratories from several WEHI divisions, as well as clinicians from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Royal Children’s Hospital.