Winning research team unlocks immune system secret

A  research partnership between The University of Melbourne and Monash University  has won $80,000 to help continue groundbreaking work on how the immune system  identifies and fights disease. The research could assist the treatment of  inflammatory bowel disease,  peptic ulcers, tuberculosis and lead to better  vaccines. The successful team, led by Professors James McCluskey and Jamie Rossjohn, has won the GSK Award for  Research Excellence announced last night at the Research Australia Annual  Awards.

Professors  McCluskey and Rossjohn have uncovered insights into how the immune system  recognises pathogens (harmful germs) such as salmonella and tuberculosis. The  surprising discovery reveals how the making of Vitamin B2 by microbes could  lead to how our immune  system recognises these pathogens. This research could  be the starting point in better understanding our body’s first line of  defence.

Professor  James McCluskey explains that their recent breakthrough shows how the immune  system uses the building blocks in Vitamin B2 production to recognise bacteria.
"Bacteria,  not humans, manufacture vitamins, which is why we rely on our diet to provide  vitamins. We have learnt that the manufacture of vitamin B2 or riboflavin,  plays an extremely important and protective role in alerting the immune system  to foreign  bacteria," he said.

"This  work is but the tip of the iceberg in understanding the role of certain cells  in the immune system," McCluskey said.

"It’s  a great example of curiosity-led science and could lead to new ways of  diagnosing and treating inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers and even  tuberculosis - it could also lead to novel protective vaccines."

Professor  Jamie Rossjohn says winning the GSK Award for Research Excellence will help  both teams nurture new talent in their laboratories and play an important role  in publicising their long-term work.

"Winning  the GSK Award for Research Excellence places our work in the public eye. It’s  early days, but the public can rest assured that our teams are working  extremely hard to see where this discovery will take us. The best fundamental  science will lead  to the best innovative therapeutics," he said.

Geoff  McDonald, GSK Australia Vice President and General Manager, says GSK is very  proud to be able to support local researchers with the Award, now in its 35th  year.

"It  is a great honour to be able to assist outstanding researchers with this  award," he said.

"Research  and development is all about inquisitiveness and innovation. Key new insights  like this along the path to discovery are of great importance and need to be  encouraged and supported."

The  GSK Award for Research Excellence was presented at the Research Australia  Annual Award, Park Hyatt, Melbourne.