Immunology & Infection

Professor Christian Engwerda

Group Leader

Head of Infectious Disease Program

The immunology and Infection laboratory studies malaria and leishmaniasis, two important parasitic diseases that affect millions of people around the world every year. Our research focuses on CD4+ T cells because of their central role in controlling anti-parasitic immunity. We use our discoveries to improve immune responses following vaccination or drug treatment with the aim of generating long-lasting immunity in communities to reduce the numbers of infections, and ultimately eliminate these diseases. Our findings relate to inflammation, and as such, our work also has important implications for developing treatments for infections, cancer and autoimmune diseases that impact thousands of Australians.

CURRENT RESEARCH

  • Identifying the mechanism of action for a novel inflammatory molecule called NKG7 that can be modulated for clinical advantage in colitis, cancer, malaria and leishmaniasis.
  • Developing drugs that can target NKG7 to treat diseases.
  • Repurposing a licensed drugs that can be used to block type I interferon signalling in malaria and visceral leishmaniasis and improve anti-parasitic CD4+ T cell responses.
  • Discovering how the DNA sensing molecule STING regulates T cell functions in malaria
  • Developing strategies to manipulate the metabolism of T cells to prevent the development of tissue pathology without compromising anti-parasitic immunity in malaria and visceral leishmaniasis

Staff

  • Jessica Engel, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Fabian Rivera, Laboratory Manager
  • Megan Soon, PhD student
  • Yulin Wang, PhD student
  • Teija Frame, PhD student
  • Jack Na, PhD student

National Collaborators:

  • Ashraful Haque – The Doherty Institute/Melbourne University
  • William Heath – The Doherty Institute/Melbourne University
  • James McCarthy – The Doherty Institute/Melbourne University
  • Professor Mark Smyth – QIMR Berghofer
  • Dr Michelle Boyle – QIMR Berghofer

International Collaborators

  • Geoff Hill – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, USA
  • Rajiv Kumar – Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
  • Shyam Sundar – Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India
  • David Sacks – National Institutes of Health, Washington DC, USA
  • Susanne Nylen – Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Tim Wells – Medicines for Malaria Venture, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2018-2022: NHMRC Program Grant, Tropical diseases: Translating discoveries into better health
  • 2019-2023: NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, Salary support
  • 2020-2021: MRFF Coronavirus Research Response grant

IMAGE GALLERY

Children living in a rural village around Muzaffarpur in the state of Bihar, India. This area is endemic for visceral leishmaniasis and is typical of the environment where sand flies that transmit the parasites responsible for leishmaniasis thrive.

A ward in the Kala-Azar Medical Research Centre, a facility run by our colleague Professor Shyam Sundar that is dedicated to treating visceral leishmaniasis patients in Muzaffarpur in the state of Bihar, India.

Health workers screening villagers for asymptomatic infection with Leishmania donovani, the cause of visceral leishmaniasis, around Muzaffarpur in the state of Bihar, India.

Members of our team collecting blood samples for analysis in a rural village around Muzaffarpur in the state of Bihar, India.