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Professor Laura Mackay

Professor Laura Mackay

(03) 8344 8016 |

Laboratory Head
Discovery Research
Department of Microbiology and Immunology (DMI) , The University of Melbourne
Lab Group(s):
Laura Mackay Group

Professor Laura Mackay is a Laboratory Head and Immunology Theme Leader at The Doherty Institute. Laura is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and Bill & Melinda Gates International Scholar, a Dame Kate Campbell Fellow, a Sylvia & Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation Senior Medical Research Fellow, a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Leadership Fellow, and in 2022 was the youngest ever Fellow elected to the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Laura obtained her PhD from The University of Birmingham, U.K. in 2009, before commencing a post-doctoral position with Professor Francis Carbone at The University of Melbourne. In 2016, she established an independent group at The Doherty Institute.

  • Key Achievements
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    • The role of resident memory T cells in barrier immunity and autoimmune disease

      Infections are commonly acquired through barrier tissues such as the skin, gut and lung, hence establishing memory CD8+ killer T cell populations at these sites is critical for effective immune protection. While most memory T cells circulate in the blood, a distinct lineage, termed tissue-resident memory T cells (Trm), resides and remains in peripheral tissues. Laura’s group’s work has shown that these cells form a defensive barrier providing immediate local control of viral infection. Using methods including flow cytometry, histology and intravital 2-photon microscopy, current work focuses on how Trm cells respond following secondary infection, and they are developing novel strategies to boost Trm cell responses, which aim to facilitate the development of strategies to exploit these cells in vaccination settings. Work in the laboratory also aims to understand the role of Trm cells in autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, and Laura’s group is investigating new approaches to eliminate pathological cells from peripheral tissues.

    • Understanding the regulation of tissue-resident memory T cell development

      Laura’s group’s work has shown that tissue-resident memory T cells (Trm) are phenotypically and functionally distinct to memory T cells in the circulation. They have found that Trm development is a multistep process that requires the action of several molecules, and that these cells acquire a unique transcriptional profile during their differentiation. Using several different infectious models including Influenza, herpes simplex virus, Listeria and LCMV, Laura’s group is investigating the regulatory cues and mechanisms that govern Trm cell development in different tissues, with a focus on the transcriptional networks that regulate commitment to this immune cell lineage.

    • Identifying the mechanisms of immune cell development in peripheral tissues

      It is now clear that ‘tissue residency’ extends past the T cell lineage, and that various immune cell populations including innate lymphoid cells (ILC) and NKT cells, can persist long-term in peripheral tissues. Laura’s group is interested in the role of the tissue microenvironment in shaping these immune cell populations, and are studying the tissue-tropic factors and signals that govern the environmental adaptation of immune cells to different tissues. Their work also investigates common mechanisms that are required to establish tissue residency such as the shutdown of tissue egress, and they are deciphering novel factors required for these processes. Their goal is to provide a molecular framework for tissue-resident lymphocyte differentiation, which will provide a basis for targeting these cells in future immune cell-based therapies. 

    Research Groups
    • Laura Mackay Group

      The Mackay Group studies memory T cell responses, with a focus on the signals that control tissue-resident memory T cell differentiation, and a view to harness these cells to develop new treatments against infection, cancer and autoimmune conditions.

      Lab Team

      Laura Mackay Group

      • Senior Research Officer
      • Dr Thomas Burn
        Research Officer
      • ARC DECRA Research Fellow
      • Dr Raissa Fonseca
        ARC DECRA Research Fellow
      • Dr Luke Gandolfo
        Research Officer (Computational Biology)
      • Dr Claire Gordon
        NHMRC Research Fellow and Infectious Diseases Physician, Austin Health
      • Dr Andrea Nguyen
        Research Officer
      • Dr Kelly Paton
        Research Officer
      • Dr Tobias Poch
        DFG Walter Benjamin Programme Fellow
      • Dr Natasha Zamudio
        Laboratory Manager
      • Honorary Research Fellow
      • Brooke Davies
        Research Assistant
      • Keely McDonald
        Research Assistant
      • Allison Clatch
        PhD Candidate
      • James Dosser
        PhD Candidate
      • Andreas Obers
        PhD Candidate
      • Maleika Osman
        PhD Candidate
      • Justine Seow
        PhD Candidate
      • Joey Kuai
        Masters Student
      • Rachel Evans
        Honours Student
      • Lutfi Huq
        American Australian Association Visiting Scholar

Full University of Melbourne profile