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MMRF » Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research [HVP] » Dr. Patricia Therese Illing: Michelson Prize 2018 for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research

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

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing: 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. Patricia Therese Illing of Monash University (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. Illing, 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.

The Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research will provide greater resources for Dr. Illing to expand our understanding of how a viral antigen is recognized by the human immune system so that we may improve the future outcome of vaccines and immunotherapies.

Previously, Dr. Illing was the first to identify spliced peptides during a viral infection. This discovery involved an innovative new approach for identifying influenzaspecific peptide antigens with implications for the development of vaccines against both seasonal and pandemic influenza strains.

A week later, on Thursday, June 27, 2018, Dr. Illing 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. Illing addressed her fellow scientists with a presentation devoted to “Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity?”. As she was about to be awarded the 2018 Michelson Prize during the Symposium closing dinner, the accompanying tribute video was projected.

Transcript

My research basically centers around trying to understand how the cells of our body show to the immune system that they’re infected with a virus or a pathogen. I started, during my PhD actually, looking at adverse drug reactions, so slightly different. But these particular sort of adverse drug reactions were stimulating an immune response that was very much like an inappropriate stimulation of a response against a virus. So, I was trying to understand how the drug was interacting with this system and making a cell look like it was pathogen-infected or virus-infected. So, that introduced me to a whole range of techniques, which were mapping what is being seen by the immune system on the surface of the cell being presented by HLA molecules.

The Michelson prize gives me an opportunity to get a little bit more independence, and also to investigate a few areas that we didn’t already have funding for with regards to some novel insights into how our cells are actually showing that they’re infected with viruses. At the moment, we’re learning more and more about how the immune system works and we keep discovering new things, spliced peptides being one of them. All of these discoveries are basically increasing our understanding of how our body shows infection and how we can harness that to stimulate the best immune response. That’s intrinsic to being able to basically generate an effective vaccine.

I’ve been working with Tony Purcell since pursuing my PhD, so I first started working with him at that point. Then, at the end of my PhD, I came over and started working with Tony full-time at Monash University. Tony is incredibly supportive as a mentor and as a boss. He allows us freedom within the laboratory to explore what we are interested in. Tony has worked very hard to get a team of people with very complimentary skills, so we have people who have expertise in bioinformatics, proteomics, T cell immunology. All of us work together. He is very encouraging collaboration within the group and also without the group.

I’ve always enjoyed learning. That’s why I’m here. I couldn’t ever anticipate the thought of not doing something where I was learning something new, and science is the perfect place for that. It also has elements of creativity. Every time you’re trying to answer a new question, you’ve got to think about the way in which you can pose it in order to get an answer that is actually informative. I really enjoy that process.

Press Excerpt

New approach for effective influenza immunity

Monash researcher, Dr Patricia Illing, has been awarded a 2018 Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research for her “innovative and disruptive” investigations into how the immune system responds to the influenza virus.

Working from Monash’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Dr Illing is exploring how a novel group of antigens contribute to the body’s immune response.

Current influenza vaccines predominantly work by stimulating the body’s immune system to make antibodies that recognise the surface of the flu virus. However, this viral surface is constantly mutating, meaning the flu vaccine needs updating every year to ensure the immune system is equipped to recognise and attack the virus.

Dr Illing’s exploration of a new subset of peptides known as “spliced peptides”, which can be formed when antigens are degraded, will inform future strategies to harness anti-viral T-cell responses in vaccines.

“We have potentially been missing a large part of the picture of how our cells show they are infected with virus, and the cues our immune system responds to in fighting that virus,” Dr Illing said.

Dr Illing’s research supervisor, Professor Tony Purcell, said he was “delighted” by Dr Illing’s international accolade.

“I firmly believe that her work on influenza will lead to new insights into how to vaccinate against this often underestimated, but deadly, virus,” Professor Purcell said.

“Patricia is one of the hardest working scientists I have worked with and has always challenged herself to undertake the most innovative and exciting research,” he said.

The Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research recognises early-career scientists whose innovation and ground-breaking research have potential to impact human health on a global scale.

“It is inspiring to see the creative thinking and innovative approaches these young researchers are taking to tackle today’s scientific challenges,” said Wayne C. Koff, PhD, president and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project.

Source
Dr. Patricia Therese Illing, Ian Gust AO; The Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0667} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing receives the Michelson Prize Award from the hands of distinguished Professor Ian Gust AO, founder director of the Burnet Institute and recipient of the 2016 Peter Wills Medal. [2018-06-27] {#0667} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing, Laurie Garrett; The Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0669} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Standing next to Science Journalist and Pulitzer Prize recipient Laurie Garrett, Dr. Patricia Therese Illing delivers her acceptance speech during the Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0669} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing, Michael Quick; The Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0628} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing discusses with Michael Quick, University of Southern California Provost, during the Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0628} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing, Michael Quick, Steve A. Kay; The Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0664} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing’s spotlight video was projected during the Future of Vaccine Development Symposium Dinner. [2018-06-27] {#0664} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing; Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity? 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#151} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing checks on a slide of her presentation “Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity?” during the 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#0151} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing, Ian Gust, Wayne Knoff; Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity? 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#161} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Professor Ian Gust and Dr. Wayne Koff, founder of the Human Vaccines Project, attend Dr. Patricia Therese Illing’s presentation “Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity?” during the 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#0161} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing; Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity? 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#156} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing addresses the audience of the 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development with her presentation “Spliced Peptides — Novel Candidates for effective influenza immunity?” [2018-06-27] {#0156} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing, William Scheif; 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#0214} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing takes notes during Dr. William Schief’s presentation “Germline Targeting and Structure Assisted Vaccine Discovery for Infectious Diseases” which took place on June 27th, 2018 at the 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#0214} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing; 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#3384} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)Dr. Patricia Therese Illing discusses with a fellow scientist during a session break at the 1st Annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development. [2018-06-27] {#3384} (Credit: Marv Steindler / Steve Cohn Photography)

Quotes
Dr. Patricia Therese Illing

The Michelson prize gives me an opportunity to get a little bit more independence, and also to investigate a few areas that we didn’t already have funding for with regards to some novel insights into how our cells are actually showing that they’re infected with viruses.

Dr. Patricia Therese Illing

I’ve always enjoyed learning. That’s why I’m here. I couldn’t ever anticipate the thought of not doing something where I was learning something new, and science is the perfect place for that.

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