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05 Sep 2023

ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards support immunology research at the Doherty Institute

Dr Claire Gordon, Senior Research Fellow and Dr Carlson Tsui, Postdoctoral Researcher, both in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Doherty Institute, are among the 200 researchers from across Australia who have been honoured with a prestigious Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), as announced by the Australian Research Council (ARC). 

The Australian Government’s DECRA scheme offers research support to outstanding early-career researchers with high-quality innovative research and emerging leadership skills. 

“It’s fabulous to see two of our early-career researchers receive this highly regarded award. This recognition is a testament to their talent, dedication and achievements in the field of immunology. Their innovative research will not only expand our understanding of the immune system but also open new avenues for the prevention and treatment of chronic infections and cancers,” said University of Melbourne Laureate Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute. 

“We take great pride in nurturing and supporting early- to mid- career researchers like them who are committed to advancing science and look forward to the remarkable contributions that lie ahead for Claire and Carlson.” 

Dr Gordon’s project seeks to expand our understanding of how tissue-resident memory T cells (TRM) work in humans. Specifically, her research will define the differences in appearance, function and control of these immune cells in organs like the gut, liver and skin, using a unique human organ donor tissue resource. 

“Whilst much of our understanding of TRM comes from animal models, how these cells work in humans is largely unknown,” said Dr Gordon. 

“Thanks to this grant, my collaborators and I will create fundamental new insights into how the immune system works and is controlled in organs like the gut, liver, and skin. This knowledge will pave the way for innovative strategies to vaccination and immune therapies, with the ultimate goal of improving health. 

To better understand how antiviral T cell response develops and persists over time, Dr Tsui’s project aims to unravel the mechanisms of stem-like precursor of exhausted T cells and their role in long-term protection against chronic infection. 

“T cells play a significant role in defending the body against chronic infections and cancers. Yet there is a critical knowledge gap about how long-term T cell response is maintained in the context of prolonged infection,” said Dr Tsui. 

“With our multidisciplinary approach and state-of-the-art techniques, we will unravel the mechanism behind the development and long-term maintenance of these specialised T cells, opening avenues for innovative treatments against chronic infections and cancers. 

“With the support from the Australian Research Council, we will generate fundamental knowledge on basic immunology and T cell biology.” 

For a full list of funded DECRA projects, including a snapshot of funding by state and territory, please view the grant announcement kit here