Immunity

All organisms are critically dependent on immunity to fight infection and disease and ensure survival. To facilitate this, the immune system is divided into innate and adaptive arms, each of which includes an array of cell types with specialised functions. However, while immunity is central to our survival, immune dysfunction is a major contributor to disease burden in Australia and globally.

Our Immunity theme brings together internationally renowned experts in immunity and immunology as a part of a comprehensive and collaborative research program working to better understand a broad range of immune mechanisms that underpin how our immune system functions. Areas of research focus include; immune system sensing and control of infection, immune surveillance and control of cancer, the development of the immune system, immune function across a life span ranging from neonatal immunity to immune senescence associated with aging, and how dysregulation of immune system function contributes to the development of autoimmune disease and transplant rejection.

Together, we are making discoveries that will inform the development of new and improved vaccines, cancer immunotherapies and novel treatments for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Who we are

The Immunity program, led by Professor Stephen Turner, brings together more than 25 research groups as well as groups that work within the Infection, Cancer, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, Development and Stem Cells and Neuroscience Discovery programs. There are also extensive collaborative links with researchers located across the various Monash campuses, including the Monash Central Clinical School, the Monash School of Clinical Sciences, and associated Medical Research Institutes and Centres.

Our research is supported by state of the art technology platforms. We are home to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Advanced Molecular Imaging. Our research is funded by fellowships and grants from the NHMRC, ARC, Cancer Council Victoria; industry collaborations such as Janssen and Merck; and international sources such as Wellcome Trust (UK) and Worldwide Cancer Research.

Our goals

Promising avenues for better therapeutic approaches to immunological and infectious diseases depends on fundamental, curiosity-driven research to better understand and identify the underlying complexities of disease pathogenesis and the generation of protective immune responses. Our researchers utilise multidisciplinary approaches and diverse models to address key questions in infectious disease, inflammation, cancer, autoimmunity and transplantation. Our expertise covers cellular and molecular immunology, biochemistry, cell signalling, genomics, structural biology, proteomics and advanced molecular and cellular imaging. A key strength is the breadth of our expertise - spanning all cell types across the entire span of adaptive and innate immune systems, and those at the intersection of both systems.

Our program aims to advance knowledge of events that are central to immunity and seeks to find answers to questions that include:

  • What are the mechanisms underpinning robust innate immunity?
  • What are the mechanisms underpinning robust adaptive immunity?
  • What causes immune dysfunction in autoimmunity and immunopathology?
  • What is the role of immunity in cancer and chronic diseases?
  • Can we treat or prevent infectious diseases and cancers through manipulation of the immune system?
  • Can we treat or prevent immune-driven pathology using biological agents?
  • What are the genetic and environmental factors that underlie susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Research themes

Systems immunology

Integrating cutting edge “omic” technologies based in genome biology, biochemistry, metabolism and data science, our researchers interrogate the complex systems that underpin immune responses to infection, autoimmunity and cancer.

Immunity to infection

Our research examines how our immune system senses, and then responds to a variety of infectious diseases including influenza A virus, SARS-CoV2, cytomegalovirus, bacterial infection, and helminth and other parasitic infections. With a broad focus and expertise across cells and soluble effectors of the both the innate and adaptive immune system, we explore how these contribute to protection from infection and establishment of immunological memory, and how these functions are impacted by pathogen mutation (immune evasion), during aging (immune senescence) or immune dysregulation (immunopathology).

Autoimmune disease and allergic reactions

We research the immune mechanisms that initiate and drive a variety of autoimmune diseases such as Type I Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Lupus and Goodpasture’s syndrome. There is also a focus on the development of novel treatments and generation of biological immunotherapies.

Microbiome

Our research explores the role of the microbiome in the development of host immune and regulatory responses and diseases such as asthma.

Cancer

We are working to integrate discoveries in metabolic cancer and immunology to translate into new cancer therapies. This includes development of novel cell based therapies such as Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells, genetically modified NK cells and assessment and development of new checkpoint therapies.

Cardiovascular disease

We investigate the role of the immune system in cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, essential hypertension and atherosclerosis.

Neuroimmunology

There is a growing appreciation that the nervous and immune systems are intimately connected. That might due to immune system recognition of pathogens that can infect the nervous system, autoimmune diseases that affect the nervous system, or linkages between immune system and nervous system function.