...Changing The World

Project Description

MMRF » Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research [HVP] » Dr. Laura Mackay: Michelson Prize 2018 for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research

Dr. Laura Mackay | 2018 Winner of Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research [2018-06-27. HVP/MMRF]

Dr. Laura Mackay: 2018 Recipient — Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research.

Context

The Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research

On June 19th, 2018, Dr. Laura Mackay of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne (Australia) was announced as one of the three recipients of the inaugural Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research.

Those awards, funded by the Michelson Medical Research Foundation, under the helm of Dr. Gary K. Michelson, and cojointly organized with the Human Vaccines Project, a non profit organization founded by Dr. Wayne Koff, are part of a $20 million initiative whose goal is to significantly advance the development of future vaccines and therapies against major global diseases by supporting young investigators, under the age of 35, who will apply innovative research concepts and disruptive technologies.

Dr. Mackay, alongside the two other award’s first recipients, was chosen among a global competition that included over a hundred applications spanning 12 countries. Each of the three 2018 Michelson prize winners were awarded a $150,000 Prize to fund specific aspects of their research.

Through her research, Dr. Mackay has been studying a subset of immune cells called Tissue-resident memory T (Trm) cells which reside in the skin and combat various viral infections and cancer.

The Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research awarded to Dr. Mackay will enable further research examining immune responses by Tissue-resident memory T (Trm) cells in order to boost their protective functions, improving the future of vaccines and immunotherapies.

On Thursday, June 27, 2018, Dr. Mackay visited the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, located at the University of Southern California, for the 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development.

It’s during this symposium that Dr. Mackay addressed her fellow scientists with a presentation devoted to “Targeting tissue-resident immune cells for enhanced immune protection”. As she was about to be awarded the 2018 Michelson Prize during the Symposium closing dinner, the accompanying tribute video was projected.

Transcript

Laura Mackay: So, I think for a lot of research scientists, myself included, research is absolutely like a hobby. It’s really creative. I get to ask questions. I get to answer those questions. And it’s like a puzzle that you want the answer to. So, I get to come in every day and find out those answers, and I would never want that to end.

My research works on a novel set of immune cells, cord tissue resident memory T cells, and T cells are really important for combating various viral infections, and also, they are really important in combating cancer. The type of T cell that I work on, they live, contrary to what a lot of people study, which is T cells that circulate around throughout the body, the subset that I work on resides within tissues, such as the skin. What our research is really focused on is how we can control these T cells and how we can harness their protective functions.

The research that will be funded by the prize will be directly looking at how we can boost immune responses by tissue resident memory T cells. So, what we really want to do is we want to augment the function of these cells and also the formation of these cells within tissues, with a view that by boosting their function and boosting their lodgement, we’re able to get better protection against infection and cancer.

What we really hope and what we hope to translate all our results towards is the generation of new immunotherapies that will incorporate these tissue resident memory T cells and will harness them to give us better protective responses against a wide variety of infections, and also enhance tumor immunity.

The biggest mentor in my career has been Professor Frank Carbone, who I saw present in the United States so many years ago, and I heard him talk on tissue resident memory T cells. It was so innovative of that time that when I finished my PhD in the UK, I moved to Melbourne to work as part of Frank’s team.

Francis Carbone: Laura is my trainee, and trainees come to you because they have a problem. They want you to help them solve the problem. Laura didn’t really do that. If she had a problem, she’d think about it, she’d work on it, she’d solve the problem, and then she’d come to you, excited. She wanted to share it. It was this enthusiasm which was infectious.

As with anything that Laura tackles, the Michelson prize has actually been very good for her because it forced her to think about what she was going to do in the future. As Laura does, she identified some very important, worthwhile challenges that she’d like to attempt or address. So, the Michelson price has been very good from the application process, and it’s fantastic to see that she’s won it, and will now be able to pursue those goals that she’s set herself.

Press Excerpt

Dr Laura Mackay wins Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research

University of Melbourne Dr Laura Mackay, a laboratory head and senior lecturer at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), has been awarded an inaugural Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research for her innovative work on tissue resident memory T cells.

The prize was founded to support young investigators who are applying innovative research concepts and disruptive technologies to their work to significantly advance the development of future vaccines and therapies.

Today, the Michelson Medical Research Foundation and the Human Vaccines Project announced three cutting edge researchers, including Dr Mackay, under the age of 35 that were selected as the award’s first recipients from a global competition that included over one hundred applications spanning 12 countries.

Dr Mackay’s research focuses on tissue resident memory T-cells, a novel subset of T cells, which play an important role in combatting viral infections and cancer.

She said she was honoured to receive this inaugural prize, which comes with US$150,000, to fund a project that will examine immune responses by tissue resident T cells to harness their protective functions to improve vaccines and immunotherapies.

“Tissue resident memory T cells are potent mediators of anti-tumour immunity. Something we want to look at is how these tissue resident memory T cells can interface with existing immunotherapies for cancer,” Dr Mackay said.

“What we hope for is the generation of new immunotherapies that will incorporate tissue resident memory T cells, harness them to give us better protective responses across a wide variety of infections and also enhance tumour immunity.”

University of Melbourne Professor Frank Carbone recruited Dr Mackay for her post-doctoral studies and has been her mentor ever since.

“Laura doesn’t let any opportunity slip; she basically conquers anything that comes in her path and then she just wants more. This is just fantastic for her future,” Professor Carbone said.

Dr Mackay will join the other recipients, Dr Patricia Illing from Monash University, formerly of Doherty Institute Council Member Professor Jim McCluskey’s group at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Ansuman Satpathy (Stanford University School of Medicine), at a symposium on the Future of Vaccine Development at the University of Southern California on 27 June, 2018. They will also be recognised at an awards gala that evening.

Michelson Medical Research Foundation founder, Dr Gary Michelson, said he is thrilled to recognise the young scientists from Australia and the United States as the first recipients of the Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research.

“The high calibre of their scientific pursuits, their disruptive ideas and their passion for innovation and problem solving gives me great hope for the future of science,” Dr Michelson said.

President and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project, Dr Wayne Koff said it was inspiring to see the creative thinking and innovative approaches the winners are taking to tackle today’s scientific challenges.

“We are proud to be able to support their research, which aligns with the Project’s mission of deepening our understanding of the immune system. We’re looking forward to the progress they will make over the next year.”

Source
Quotes
Dr. Laura Mackay

(…) Research is absolutely like a hobby. It’s really creative. I get to ask questions. I get to answer those questions. And it’s like a puzzle that you want the answer to. So, I get to come in every day and find out those answers, and I would never want that to end.

Dr. Frank Carbone

If she (Laura Mackay) had a problem, she’d think about it, she’d work on it, she’d solve the problem, and then she’d come to you, excited. She wanted to share it. It was this enthusiasm which was infectious.

Back to Top