Research

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Information for Prospective Students and Staff

Students

The Kent laboratory at the University of Melbourne has had great success in training excellent PhD and Honours students over the years. Prof Kent was honoured to receive the Peter Doherty Outstanding PhD Supervisor award from the University of Melbourne (see story here ). All our Honours students have achieved First Class Honours, and our PhD students are highly productive, producing several first- and co-authored scientific publications. The vast majority of our PhD students finish in under 3.5 years, well below the average time taken. Most of our recent Australian PhD students have received prestigious NHMRC post doctoral fellowships or similar fellowships to continue their research. Our philosophy is that it is important for students to learn to become very productive in the scientific world and to do all we can to facilitate their move to the next stage of their career. See this link for other useful advice for potential PhD students.

We are always happy to hear from potential students. Interested students should review our projects and publications pages, and email their CV and transcripts to skent@unimelb.edu.au. Prospective PhD students should also see the Melbourne School of Graduate Research website for eligibility criteria and scholarship information as virtually all our students hold prestigious PhD scholarships.

Staff

The Kent laboratory has a wide range of interesting projects that will suit dedicated and inquisitive Post-doctoral Fellows. We are interested in early stage Post-doctoral Fellows with a desire to make a difference in the HIV vaccine field. The University of Melbourne offers generous remuneration packages. More details can be found on the Human Resources website.

Recent Graduates and Post-doctoral Fellows

The Kent Laboratory is immensely proud of its former staff and students who have contributed to our research and then progressed into new fields.

Dr Sinth Jegaskanda is a recently graduated PhD student taking up a postdoc at the NIH in the USA to study influenza immunity. He was awarded both a CJ Martin NHMRC fellowship and an Australian-American fellowship to start his work. He returned to our department to work with Prof Cam Simmons in 2016, and rejoined the Kent group in 2017.

Dr Marjon Navis is a Dutch post doc who spent just over 2 years in the Kent lab. She landed a job with a great lab at the Karolinska Insitute in Sweden in 2011 and subsequently took a job with Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 2015.

Dr Amy Chung obtained her PhD with the Kent lab in March 2011 and then held a post-doc position with Dr Galit Alter at Harvard/Ragon Institute. Amy was awarded a prestigious America-Australia Scholarship to help with her move and was also awarded an NHMRC Overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship. She has published on ADCC immunity in Science Translational Medicine and Cell with the Harvard group.  She rejoined the Kent group in 2015 and has NHMRC project grant funding, NHMRC CDF funding and amfAR Krim funding.

Dr Liyen Loh obtained her PhD in February 2010 and was awarded an NHMRC Overseas Biomedical Postdoctoral Training Fellowship to further her career in the lab of Professor Doug Nixon at UCSF in San Francisco. During her PhD, Liyen was awarded a prestigious Commendation for the 2009 Premier's Award for Health and Medical Research. She was also awarded the QIAGEN PhD Achievement Award. Her work has been featured in The University of Melbourne Voice (May 2009). She returned to the University of Melbourne to work with Dr Katherine Kedzierska in our department.

Dr Rosemarie Mason was awarded her PhD in 2009. She initially returned to Canada to a postdoctoral position at the University of Toronto. She was offered a Marie Curie and Canadian Heart Foundation Postdoctoroal fellowships on her return to Canada. She took up a position in Dr Mario Roederer's lab at the NIH.

Dr Viv Peut obtained her PhD in December 2008, and was awarded a NHMRC Overseas based Biomedical Fellowship to further her research on HIV vaccines in the lab of Professor Julie McElrath at the Fred Hutchison Research Centre in Seattle. She returned to the University of Melbourne to work with the Turner/Doherty group, and is now working with Roy Hill mining.

Dr Ivan Stratov is an infectious diseases physician who completed a PhD with the Kent laboratory in 2006. He was awarded a prestigious NHMRC clinical fellowship to pursue his work with ADCC responses in HIV-infected people in the Kent lab. He was successful with NHMRC project grants.

Dr Miranda Smith was awarded her PhD in March 2008, and obtained a NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship to work in the lab of Dr Annette Oxenius at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. She returned to Melbourne to work with Prof Sharon Lewin at the Alfred Hospital/University of Melbourne and is now managing a large Centre of Research Excellence in Infectious Diseases.

Dr Erik Rollman spent 2.5 years with us as a Post-doctoral Fellow on a prestigious Swedish Research Council Fellowship. He returned to Sweden in 2008 to take up a position with a biotech company.

photo of Viv and Liyen

Viv and Liyen

Research Facilities

Our laboratory and offices are located on the 7th floor of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (PDI) on the corner of Grattan and Elizabeth Streets in Parkville.  Our building, which was completed in late 2013, is a purpose built facility which provides laboratory and office space for:

  • Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne
  • Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory
  • WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza
  • Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory
  • Victorian Infectious Diseases Service
  • Victorian Healthcare Associated Infection Surveillance System

With such interesting neighbours, it is a great place to do science.  We moved to the PDI in early 2014.

Lab Facilities

Our modern HIV immunology/ virology laboratory has 70m2 of new laboratory space, 4 class II biosafety cabinets, 3 refrigerated centrifuges, 2 microscopes, 2 -70C freezers, a 30,000 viral liquid N2 storage facility, 2 CO2 incubators, ABI and Eppendorf real time PCR machines, a Coulter counter and an AID Elispot reader. The Kent group also has direct access to an adjacent PCR suite. In addition, we share a new PC3 laboratory suite located within the department. The PC3 laboratory is equipped with 3 class II biosafety cabinets, 2 CO2 incubators, an ultracentrifuge, a microscope and a flow cytometer. A new Astrios FACS sorter was installed in the PC3 lab recently.

Animal Facility

Prof Kent manages and operates a PC3 animal facility of 150m2, staffed with dedicated animal technicians. Purpose-designed cages and video surveillance are installed in all rooms. A separate laboratory with a class II biosafety cabinet and refrigerated centrifuge is also located within the animal facility. The department manages a superb mouse facility.

Flow Cytometry Facility

The Kent lab has fantastic access to a world-class flow cytometry facility located 2 floors above the lab. The facility has a dedicated manager and manages high end Fortessa, LSRII, Aria, Canto machines among others. We purchased our own Fortessa in 2015.

Clinical Resources

Prof Kent sees HIV-infected adult patients at the Alfred Hospital and Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, the 2 major tertiary referral centres for HIV in Melbourne. We have ready access to samples from HIV-infected subjects, which assists our work on ADCC responses to HIV.

Computer Facilities

The Kent laboratory has numerous ethernet-linked Mac computers with Intel Core processors. We operate an electronic laboratory storage of records system, and an electronic lab book system for more efficient and secure storage of data. All computers are backed up regularly. We have purchased MacBook Pro laptops for most of our PhD students.

Major Collaborators

NHMRC Program Grant 2014 - 2018

This Program focuses on immunity to HIV in informative clinical cohorts and model systems. Our studies will guide development of novel treatments, cure strategies and vaccines through preclinical and early phase clinical investigations. This program was recently renewed for 2019 - 2023 with Professor Kent as CIA.

Our team includes:

Clinician-scientists with a proven record in the identification of unresolved issues in the clinic and the establishment of laboratory strategies to investigate these issues with patient samples and animal models:

Drs David CooperAnthony Kelleher, University of NSW
Professor Stephen Kent, University of Melbourne
Professor Sharon Lewin, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection & Immunity

A basic scientist providing expertise in immunology and virology underpinning disease pathogenesis:

Professor Damian Purcell, University of Melbourne

A clinical researcher with substantive experience in clinical research and development:

Dr Sean Emery, University of NSW

A mathematical modeller and biostatistician:

Dr Miles Davenport, University of NSW

Other co-Investigators strengthen the clinical and laboratory capacity with skilled scientists who provide the “engine-room” to drive further advances.

Australia-India Strategic Research Fund

This award was supported collaborative research on HIV immunity with the group of Dr Madhur Thakar at the National AIDS Research Insitute in Pune India. We studied ADCC immunity to HIV in both cohorts of HIV+ subjects in India and Australia. We shared technology transfer of key assays in both directions. The Australian component is funded by the Australian government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Other Collaborations

Drs Miles Davenport, University of NSW

Dr Davenport and colleagues have been instrumental in helping refine our understanding of immune escape and reversion and HIV latency. His group brings insightful thinking and sophisticated mathematical modelling to help explain our experimental data and testable hypotheses.

Dr Frank Caruso, University of Melbourne

The Caruso group from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering are experts in layer-by-layer nanoparticles. These particles hold great potential as a vaccine delivery system. We were awarded an ARC Centre of Excellence grant with Drs Caruso and Johnston and 17 other CIs around Australia.

Professor Dale Godfrey, University of Melbourne

The Godfrey lab are leaders in the study of NKT cells, MAIT cells and CD1-restricted cells, and are instrumental in our collaborative work in the area.

Professor Andrew Brooks , and Drs Lucy Sullivan and Jie Lin, University of Melbourne

We have been actively collaborating with the Brooks lab studying CD8 T cell immunity using MHC tetramers. We are also studying NK cell KIR ligand interactions with macaque MHC molecules.

Visit Stephen's Departmental Research Pages

Note: the following link goes to the main Departmental Website.

Kent Laboratory: HIV Vaccines; Immune Responses to HIV-1; Immunotherapy