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21 Nov 2023

2023 Ramaciotti Health Investment grant supports Dr Utzschneider’s cancer immunology research

A research project on identifying and targeting novel immune regulators to improve cancer control, led by University of Melbourne’s Dr Daniel Utzschneider, a Laboratory Head in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Doherty Institute, has been awarded close to $100,000 thanks to a 2023 Ramaciotti Health Investment grant. 

One of the biggest health issues globally, cancer affects millions of people worldwide, and despite the success of therapies like 'checkpoint blockade,' not all patients benefit, highlighting the need for innovative approaches. The immune system, particularly T cells, often becomes functionally exhausted in response to cancer which facilitates disease progression. 

To address this challenge, Dr Utzschneider, an internationally recognised leader in the study of T cell biology in response to cancer and chronic infections, will use advanced technology to screen for regulators that impact T cell responses to cancer. 

“We have established a CRISPR screen platform, which unlike conventional screens, can select T cells based on their functionality and localisation, allowing us to identify targets that impact T cell quality rather than quantity,” said Dr Utzschneider. 

“Ultimately, our aim is to unveil promising therapeutic targets to enhance cancer treatments or improve existing therapies.” 

Dr Utzschneider thanked Perpetual, the Trustee of the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundations, for their support in achieving this goal. 

“I am grateful to Perpetual and Ramaciotti Foundations for funding this important work. Their generosity makes a substantial impact on advancing health and medical research, and the 2023 Ramaciotti Health Investment grant will help us progress research which may eventually lead to new or improved ways to treat cancer,” said Dr Utzschneider. 

Awarded by Perpetual, Trustee of the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundations, on the recommendation of a dedicated Scientific Advisory Committee, the Ramaciotti Health Investment grants support health or medical research that has the potential path to clinical application within five years. The grants aim to provide research support for an autonomous early-career investigator who is taking, or has recently taken, a substantive position.