New rules: Understanding how to balance our immune system and microbiome

Professor Paul Hertzog, Professor Elizabeth Hartland and Dr Sam Forster from the Hudson Institute, in collaboration with Professor Christine Wells at the University of Melbourne were awarded a prestigious NHMRC Synergy Grant to understand the rules for maintaining a healthy balance between the immune system and microbiome.

The $5 million grant supports outstanding multidisciplinary research teams working collaboratively to address major problems in human health and medical research.

As one of only five grants awarded nationally, this is an outstanding achievement for Professor Hertzog and the team, and an acknowledgement of their achievements and leadership in their fields.

This project "Innate mucosal sensing and shaping of the human microbiome" will utilise the researchers’ combined expertise in innate immune signaling, systems biology, microbiome and pathogens to determine

  • How the immune system distinguishes friend from foe (commensal or ‘friendly’ microbes from pathogenic microbes)
  • How the innate immune system shapes the microbiome, and vice versa
  • How the interaction between the immune system and microbe changes in different organs (e.g. intestine vs. reproductive tract)

The team will use and develop new technologies including cutting-edge genomics and systems biology pipelines, bioengineering organ-on-chip technology and our unique library of commensals.

The key outcomes will be to understand the rules for maintaining a healthy balance between the immune system and microbiome and how to correct the imbalance caused by infectious, pathogenic microbes using new diagnostics and therapeutics.

Professor Christine Wells, Director of the Centre for Stem Cell Systems is contributing her expertise in stem cell models of macrophages, as well as bioinformatics, to this great new partnership between the Hudson Institute at Monash University and the University of Melbourne.