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18 Jan 2022

Basic science projects at the Doherty Institute receive funding boost

Doherty Institute researchers have received over $2.5 million in the latest round of grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC) which were announced on Christmas Eve last year.

The ARC’s Discovery Project scheme provides grant funding to support excellent basic and applied research and research training by either individuals or teams.

University of Melbourne Professor Bill Heath, a Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, was awarded $770,0000 for his project examining the biology of CD4 helper T cells. 

“While it is clear that a population of CD4 helper T cells permanently live in the liver, there is little understanding of how this novel population are formed, how they are armed for fighting infection or how they are maintained for long periods,” Professor Heath said.

“In collaboration with the laboratory of Professor Elivra Mass at the University of Bonn in Germany, my team and I will characterise this novel T cells subset to better understand their nature and how they might be utilised to fight infection.”

University of Melbourne Dr Claire Gordon, a Research Officer in the Mackay Laboratory at the Doherty Institute was one of the successful recipients, receiving over $639,000 to analyse human tissue-resident memory T cells to better understand how they function in our organs.

“As it’s difficult to sample organs in healthy people, much of what we know about how immune cells work in organs like the lung and the gut comes from animal studies,” Dr Gordon explained.

“The goal of this project is to learn how human immune cells work in a wide range of organs using samples gifted by organ donors.

“Insights from this project will help us to develop new vaccines and therapies to fight infections, cancer and autoimmune diseases.”

Doherty Institute Director Professor Sharon Lewin congratulated the successful recipients.

“Projects like these are critical in developing new therapies to fight infectious disease, and it is fantastic that basic science continues to be funded,” Professor Lewin said.

“It is just unfortunate that not enough of them are being resourced.

“If we wish to keep seeing the levels of innovation and collaboration that have been on display throughout the pandemic, the competitive nature of scientific research in Australia has to be addressed.”

A number of Doherty Institute researchers were also named as CIB’s in a range of successful Discovery Project grants being led by other organisations including the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

ARC Discovery Grants

Professor Bill Heath
Understanding the diverse biology of CD4+ T cell resident memory.

Dr Claire Gordon
Whole-body analysis of human tissue-resident memory T cells. 

Professor Jose Villandangos
A novel axis of cooperation between innate and adaptive immunity

Professor Christopher McDevitt
Elucidating the determinants of cation import across the kingdoms of life.