Infection & Immunity


Immunity is of central importance to all organisms, as their very survival is dependent upon the ability to fight infection and disease.  To enable this, the immune system is divided into innate and adaptive arms that include an array of cell types with specialised functions. However, while immunity is critical to our survival, immune dysfunction is a major contributor to disease burden in Australia and globally.

Infection, the flip side to immunity, is concerned with how pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi) cause disease. These pathogens have developed, and continually evolve, strategies to overcome the defences of the immune system.  Indeed, infection is the cause of half of all illness and death in the world.

Great inroads have been made in understanding the processes underlying infection and immunity, and such major advances are beginning to impact on health through novel therapies.  Indeed, vaccination - probably the most outstanding discovery in the field of medicine in the 20thcentury - represents a practical example of how better understanding infection and immunity can profoundly impact on society.  However, there are many aspects of infection and immunity we do not yet understand and, accordingly, there is enormous potential to further our knowledge underpinning infection and immunity for society gain.

Who we are

The Infection and Immunity program is geared to bringing a better understanding of how the immune system and microbes function.  Co-led by Professor Ana Traven and Professor Stephen Turner, it is the largest BDI program, bringing together more than 68 group leaders and their research teams, as well as more than a dozen affiliated research teams from other Monash BDI programs, such as Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer.

Our research covers a breadth of expertise including cellular immunology, cellular microbiology, microbial pathogenesis, infectious diseases, structural biology, proteomics and molecular and cellular imaging, all of which is supported by state of the art technology platforms and the the recently established 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 international sources such as Wellcome Trust (UK) and Worlwide Cancer Research.

Meet one of our Infection and Immunity researchers: Professor Trevor Lithgow

Our goals

Our program aims to advance knowledge of events that are central to infection and immunity, how immune responses are regulated and how they are impacted on by infection.

Important questions our research seeks to address include:

  • What are the mechanisms underlying innate immunity?
  • What are the mechanisms underlying adaptive immunity?
  • What causes immune dysfunction?
  • What is the role of immunity in cancer and chronic diseases?
  • How do pathogens cause disease?
  • Why do pathogens spread?
  • Can we treat or prevent infectious diseases through manipulation of the immune system?
  • Can we treat or prevent infectious diseases with newly designed drugs?
  • Can we treat or prevent infectious diseases with re-engineered drugs?
  • Can we treat or prevent infectious diseases with biological agents?
  • What are the genetic and environmental factors that underlie susceptibility to infectious diseases?