Jamie Rossjohn: Deepening our understanding of the immune system

For over 15 years, Professor Jamie Rossjohn (FAA FLSW ARC Australian Laureate Fellow) has been studying how the immune system works at Monash, watching its every move from how it protects us from viruses to when the immune system starts  attacking our own body, as in the case of autoimmunity. “With scientific research you don’t always see the impact straight away,” he says. “It can take decades.”

One of Jamie’s eureka moments arrived in 2012 when he discovered how T-cells in the immune system can respond to Vitamin B metabolites, which could lead to building better vaccines and treatments of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers and tuberculosis.

World class robotics infrastructure

When Jamie first completed his PhD in 1994, the computing power was a fraction of that of a smartphone. It took the entire duration of his PhD to determine a protein structure.

Today, with the high resolution imaging provided by infrastructure such as synchrotrons, research in biomedical science has advanced exponentially. “The university has generously supported us with key robotics infrastructure over the last nine years,” says Jamie. “A multi-million dollar investment in state-of-the-art crystallisation robotics.”

Australian Synchrotron is part of the Clayton Innovation Cluster where Jamie and his team can conduct research on protein structure at an unprecedented level of detail. This level of detail provides unprecedented insight into the functioning of the immune system. “The Australian Synchrotron is absolutely instrumental in enabling us to be internationally competitive.”

Fellowships, funding and collaborations

Jamie’s research continues with the establishment of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Advanced Molecular Imaging at Monash. Here, Jamie can work together with a collective of biochemists, chemists and physicists to undertake truly transformative and basic science, research that may one day lead the development of novel immunotherapeutics to treat immune-related diseases.

With an ARC Laureate Fellowship set to start in 2017, Jamie is looking forward to making more discoveries at Monash. “The Laureate Fellowship gives me the chance to set out a road map for my research for the next five years,” he says. “At the same time, I shall be training and mentoring the next generation of biomedical researchers.”

See Jamie’s profile