Blog from April 2017

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August 2021

A big couple of months for grants – we were humbled to receive a $3m MRFF award to study vaccines against the new COVID variants. Adam, Jen, Hyon-Xhi, Wen Shi, Robyn, Kathleen, Isaac, Hannah and Jane did a fantastic job generating data and putting the grant together. We’re grateful to our partners Kanta Subbarao at the Doherty, Trent Munro at UQ, Jason Lickliter at Nucleus Network, Wai-Hong Tham at WEHI, Kylie Quinn at RMIT, Miles Davenport at UNSW and many others for helping out so generously.

We recently held a “COVID Community forum” recently to thank all our dedicated participants of all our many research studies. It was a great chance to chat and say a heartfelt thanks, give a brief update on our work and for our scientists to meet some of the participants and vice versa. We wouldn’t have made nearly the headway on COVID that we have without the generous help of people enrolling in our studies.

We’ve been working with Jesse Toe and others from the research and commercialisation team at the University on trying to move our COVID treatments and vaccines towards human trials. Jesse kindly gave us a coffee mug for all our work (see photo).

Penny recently started with our group as an RA working with Hyon-Xhi and Jen. Thi Do has also started work with Marios as an RA and plans to start a PhD with us in 2022. Timon passed his PhD and is off to Amsterdam for a post-doc there. Hannah passed her PhD also and may be off to Canberra later in the year.

April 2021

Apologies for the delay in updating the website – there were some changes in the personnel who maintain the site and Stephen is not good at it!

We’ve had a hugely productive few months understanding COVID immunity, with papers on new COVID vaccines, durability of immunity in COVID, COVID nanobodies, COVID ADCC, ACE2 levels in COVID, COVID neutralising antibodies, correlates of protection in COVID, human coronaviruses, HLA I restricted CTL responses in COVID. Many more papers in various aspects of submission. We’re very proud of all our work helping understand COVID and help with vaccines and treatments. Adam, Jen, Hyon-Xhi, Wen Shi, Robyn, Kathleen, Thakshila and the whole team is doing an amazing job. We’re collaborating closely with Amy Chung and Katherine Kedzierska’s groups which has also been super productive and very fun and collegial. We have a COVID immunity MRFF with Katherine, Amy and many others where we meet regularly to hear updates and chat about our latest work. Jane is doing a good job keeping us on track.

We had a fantastic lab retreat in Marysville recently where we all presented our work, heard about our latest grant and commercial applications, and had a number of team-building exercises. We were fortunate to have Prof Miles Davenport a long-term collaborator from UNSW come down and provide his perspective on our work and directions. The RAs should have won this tip packing contest but fell at the last hurdle to the post-docs! Adam had the group leaders in the lead early until Miles and Stephen’s turns.

Everyone is finally back full time in the lab. The whole lab has recently been vaccinated against COVID which is excellent. Hannah has submitted her thesis and is working with us on an ARC nanoparticle grant – she may be moving to Canberra with her partner at the end of the year. Julius and Wenbo have passed their PhD theses which is great. Kirsty has returned from her interrupted honors year to do a PhD with Jen. Devaki joins us from NZ to do a PhD with Adam and Hyon-Xhi. Marios has joined us from the Kedzierska lab and is off to a great start with some Flu B projects.


Another very busy couple of months. Our paper on the influence of T helper cells (Tfh) on neutralizing Ab to SARS-CoV-2 came out in Nature Medicine . It’s a really important look at the factors that could influence the generation and longevity of protective immunity to COVID-19. Jen handled the media onslaught with aplomb – see here, and here and here  and here! Her husband Ian handled the international media in Winnipeg ! Jen was profiled in the Doherty Institute’s “meet the scientist”  section recently. Well done to a great team effort, especially Adam, Jen and Hyon-Xhi but contributions from so many in our group and some key collaborators. We have 2 other really important studies on COVID vaccines  and the decay of COVID immunity over time that have been put up on pre-print servers.

Our COVID research team is super busy trying to develop vaccines, generate monoclonal antibodies and understanding immunity after natural COVID-19 infection among many projects on the go. Jen and Kathleen have done an incredible job processing and carefully storing many hundreds of samples and thousands of vials – we need new freezers! We have employed a fantastic new research assistant Chris Nelson to help us with our work. We have a really dedicated cohort of people that have recovered from COVID that have been wonderfully helpful to us. We’re very humbled by their support.

We’re excited that we’ve successfully obtained further funding recently from the Victorian Government, an MRFF antibody consortium (see photo) and through the Paul Ramsay Foundation which we’re very grateful to. This helps fill a big budgetary hole – COVID-19 research has been fascinating but Jane says we are blowing through over $25k a week just in consumables on this effort!

We’ve entered stage 4 lockdown, so we’re all masking up (see photo below!). Many of our PhD students are using the coronavirus lockdown to busily write up their theses. Matthew Worley has passed – well done – see congratulatory video here ! Yi Liu has just recently passed also – congratulations Yi! Julius Wong has submitted his thesis. Wenbo Jiang is on track to submit in the next couple of months. Isaac has his 1 year confirmation meeting coming up. Hannah has generously paused her PhD writing up to work as an RA for us on our COVID-19 projects – we’re very thankful for her help – but she will be getting back to her thesis soon.

June 2020

Wow, what a couple of months. We are celebrating a paper on coronavirus immunity just accepted at Nature Medicine and being successful in MRFF and Victorian government grants – see our virtual celebration photo.

Screengrab of various members of the Kent lab on Zoom, holding celebratory drinks.

Adam, Jen, Hyon-Xhi, Wen Shi, Robyn, Hannah and Kathleen have been doing an absolutely fantastic job with coronavirus studies – we’ve really made some headway understanding immunity to this awful virus. We really appreciate all the people who’ve kindly volunteered for our studies – we’re overwhelmed and humbled by their generosity.

We’re now applying these insights into developing monoclonal antibodies and vaccines with lots of data rolling in. We see some good signs that a vaccine may not be that difficult – after working on HIV and Flu vaccines for many years (decades for some!) with only moderate success, it’s great to see a slightly easier target (so long as the virus doesn’t start to change!).

Kevin and Amy have a great collaborative paper under review also analysing antibody dynamics – up on medrxiv also. Wen Shi has written a nice review which is under review. In between times Hyon-Xhi and Jen have submitted NHMRC Ideas grants with some help from Adam and Stephen.

The rest of the group have been busy writing or amending theses and papers, getting regulatory things in place, and fitting in with the rules at the Doherty by working out of hours or on weekends. We really appreciate their dedication and patience in these difficult times. With the number of cases still pretty low it looks like more people will be able to come to work soon, but we need to be super careful. We’re envious of our NZ colleagues! Not so much in the US, Europe and elsewhere. Stay safe everyone.

April 2020

Well, a lot has changed – our research has pivoted dramatically to the new coronavirus.

Adam, Amy, Wen Shi, Hyon-Xhi and Jen are all leading important projects on antibodies, vaccines and T cells against SARS-CoV2. Hannah has paused finishing her Influenza-related PhD to work on coronavirus studies. They’re working extra hard and I really appreciate their efforts. Some of our staff and students are finishing writing up projects and chapters at home, hoping to clear that work off their desks and planning so that work can resume in the coming months in some fashion.

We are having lab meetings by Zoom these days – see photo. Everyone is being safe and social distancing appropriately and it is pleasing to see numbers being blunted in Australia – let’s keep this up!

A screenshot of the Kent Lab holding a meeting via Zoom

A lab meeting by Zoom

February 2020

Hope you all had a good break and weren’t too impacted by the fires or coronavirus!

We had a great lab retreat in Apollo Bay in December – lots of team building and koala watching – below are some of Mingyang and Anja’s photos. The rumour is we may have a ski trip retreat in 2020. Wen Shi, Milla and Jane did a great job organising the retreat this year.

Plenty of end-of-year functions were had – including a lab celebration where awards were given for papers and special mentions. Plenty of champagne awards, although no spraying this year alas. The Doherty end-of-year function was fun – see our twitter account for a video to see what happens to mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent.

We’re sad to see Vinca leaving this month after 13+ years and over 30 publications. She off to pursue her volunteer work in Fiji – she leaves a big hole but we wish her all the best.

We’re also saying another farewell to Milla who returns to her medical degree. She completed another highly productive year with us including more papers to come out. We’ll miss her and hope she returns one day!

We welcome to Dr Emily Pilkington in February who joins us from Monash Pharmacy to work on some of our nano-medicine collaborative projects. We also welcome our new honors student Kirsty Field who will be working with Jen and Kathleen on a gamma-delta T cell project. Lastly, we welcome Martin Killian, a French physician with an interest in auto-immune diseases who will be working with Amy’s group characterising auto-antibodies.

November 2019

Many of the lab attended the Doherty Ball this year – see attached photos.

Congratulations to Ester, Julius, Kevin and Milla on recent papers or reviews and to Hannah and Vinca for contributing to many collaborative papers within the CBNS. We have the CBNS annual research meeting coming up as well as our NHMRC program grant meeting. Our lab retreat to Apollo Bay is also coming up.

Well done to Ebene on submitting a really nice honours thesis recently.

We’re expecting the O’Connors and some of their staff back soon for a week or two to continue our collaborative work.

Welcome to Marloes and Anja, our visiting scientists from the Netherlands and Germany, who are working with Amy and Hyon-Xhi respectively. Welcome also to Isaac who is starting a PhD with Jen.

Wen Shi received a University of Melbourne ECR grant recently and Sam received a best poster prize at the Biomed Link Conference.

For more Kent lab updates, follow us on our @Kentlaboratory twitter account.

At the Doherty Ball

September 2019

We had a big contingent go to the Options Influenza conference in Singapore recently - well done to all for their presentations (see photo of Hyon-Xhi). Jen has been to Oxford recently to the CD1/MR1 conference.

Hyon-Xhi giving a presentation at the Options Influenza conference in Singapore.

Hyon-Xhi delivering a presentation at the Options Influenza conference in Singapore

Yi is giving his PhD oration shortly - see flyer attached.

Ebene is busy getting her Honors thesis together at present.

Mai and David are very busy in our lab with nanoparticle collaborations - thats to Vinca, Thakshila and Hannah and the rest of the team for helping them.

July 2019

Big news is that Ester has had her baby – Sophie – a little early but mother and baby doing well. We had a baby shower for her recently – see photo.

Ester's baby shower

Very sad to see Dave, Shelby and Eli O’Connor return to Wisconsin after their sabbatical here – we really enjoyed their insights and collaborations. We (especially Stephen, Jen and Amy) have an NIH grant with Shelby now so we’ll see more of her – our collaborators on the grant from Pittsburgh, Hawaii and the Godfrey lab recently met here at the Doherty – see photo. The O’Connor’s will we think be back visiting in November briefly to keep things rolling along.

NIH grant collaboration dinner

New movement in the lab is that Adam and Jen have moved in to an office together – not sure they can be more productive than they already are!

We have a new visitor from China, Mingwang, visiting for one year – he’s done some nice work on Influenza virology in the past and plans to get involved in Flu immunology projects with Adam’s team.

Our students are all doing well – Yi is starting to write up now and Hannah and Julius are into their last year.

Stephen visited Hillary in Townsville recently – we continue to collaborate on Flu ADCC projects. She has recovered from the terrible floods up there and getting her research and teaching going.

Jen visited Manitoba University recently and now is in Brisbane at the mucosal immunology meeting. Stephen attended a nanomedicine meeting in Sydney recently - many of our CBNS colleagues were there. Vinca, Hannah and Thakshila are kept busy with our many nanoparticle collaborations. Wen Shi recently won an award at the ACH2 conference for his presentation – well done!

Our lab netball side has finished – we lost every match against some very young opposition but had fun along the way! We are now considering futsal or dodgeball next season – stay tuned for our first win. Thanks to Robyn for organising.

April 2019

We’ve had a steady stream of visitors from Dave and Shelby O’Connor’s labs in Wisconsin which has been really fun and stimulating. More to come in May.

We’re trying to implement more of the great ideas from our retreat – we have a lab breakfast, a lab walk, a lab netball team all coming up soon. We’re have a morning tea coming up with the Kedzierska lab who we collaborate a lot with also.

Wen Shi’s PhD passed with flying colours – he formally graduates in April – his excited parents are coming out from Malaysia. Kevin is waiting on his PhD thesis reviews which should come in soon. Kevin spent two weeks in Paris learning mucosal explant cultures recently. Hannah is at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Centre in the USA at present learning more about ferritin nanoparticle vaccines.

Wen Shi's graduation (pictured: Wen Shi and family and Stephen)

Wenbo already has a paper out within his first year as a PhD student – well done to Wenbo and Jen – see our publication page update. Hyon-Xhi has a nice paper out in Frontiers Immunol recently – just in time for his DECRA application!

Vinca is very busy with our many nanoparticle collaborations – Mai from Monash pharmacy and David from the Caruso lab are learning various techniques. Vinca is also doing a post-graduate course in oncology at present! We’ve had various regulatory audits happening lately and things are going smoothly – a big thank you to Thakshila and Ash for doing just a great job. We get a lot of assistance from Ann Cornish and others from our department also – thank you.

February 2019

We're having our lab's second annual 'Gratefulness morning tea' this week – we get to thank people in our group and the wider Doherty Institute who make our lives easier.

We welcome

  • Ebene doing Honours,
  • Samantha doing a PhD and
  • Milla as an RA into Amy's group

– major expansion!

Matt is off to Emory University soon, it will be sad to see him go. We said goodbye to Anne just before Christmas also – greatly missed!

We've had a steady stream of Wisconsin visitors and colleagues of Dave and Shelby here lately. Julie and Roger were here a couple of weeks ago with plenty of genome sequence work with Thakshila. Matt Reynolds is here this week – he has a panoply of interesting HIV projects.

We have a few people off to a Keystone B cell conference soon.

Jen, Timon and Hannah have had nice papers or reviews accepted lately. Keep an eye on our publications page.

We are getting into Twitter a little more these days – @KentLaboratory is the handle.

December 2018

Retreat and paper mania leading up to Christmas. We had an amazing NHMRC program retreat in Healesville – Jane did a super-human effort organising it so efficiently. Our international guest Louis Picker gave a large number of excellent talks. The O'Connor family helped organise various games and interactive ideas that worked really well.

Kent lab at an amazing NHMRC retreat in Healesville

Several of us also went to our ARC Centre of Excellent CBNS retreat in Terrigal NSW. We met with all our collaborations to keep the ball rolling on a large number of studies. Adam has had 2 great papers accepted recently with Hyon-Xhi in JCI and with Yi in Nature Communications – great effort. We got Sinth's last paper accepted at J Virol recently with a lot of recent help from Hillary, Kathleen, Hyon-Xhi and Jen. More champagne to come!

We had our lab retreat this year down near Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road (see photos). Timon Anne, Robyn and Jane did a great job of organising it. Plenty of work-related sessions of projects and ideas, team-building games (we even got the post-docs to pack tip-boxes!), group surfing lesson, board games and food, food, food. Everyone enjoyed it and I think I got to know everyone a bit better.

Our lab wishes you all a great holiday season and all the best for 2019.

October 2018

It's been a big month. Kevin gave his final PhD oration recently followed by much celebration – see photos. Matthew Worley's oration is coming up – should be huge! Wen Shi recently submitted his thesis – congratulations! All three are off to a HIV vaccine conference and an adjacent meeting with our European EAVI2020 partners soon.

Kent lab celebrating Kevin's PhD oration

We've had some amazing papers accepted lately in nice journals – JCI (congratulations Matt, Anne etc!), Lancet HIV (a big team effort including Vinca, Thakshila and our colleagues at MSHC), Nature Reviews Immunology (with Miles Davenport at UNSW), Nature Nanotechnology (with the Caruso team colleagues), Nature Communications (Hillary and colleagues at Vanderbilt) etc etc. See our publications page for an update. Adam, Hyon-Xhi and Yi are closing in on two fantastic additional papers in the Flu field in great journals also after positive reviews. Jen and Kathleen have two really nice stories on MAIT and gamma-delta T cells under submission and about to be submitted It's a credit to everyone involved.

We're busy planning a lab retreat near Lorne in December – Robyn, Timon, Anne and Jane are doing a great organising job. Stay tuned for surfing lessons, BBQ, gratefulness awards and more!

We also have a retreat with our CBNS nanomedicine partners in Terrigal NSW coming up. We've got a large number of collaborators going there, ably led by Hannah, Robyn, Vinca and Adam. Jane has been very busy organising our NHMRC program grant annual three-day meeting at Healesville also. Louis Picker from Oregon is our visiting scientist this year, assisted by our sabbatical residents from Wisconsin, the O'Connors. Stephen sits on mentoring committees for both the CBNS and our NHMRC program grant – he enjoys seeing people flourish to their full potential!

August 2018

Stephen has been on a 3 month sabbatical visiting several labs in Europe involved in the NHMRC-EU grant he leads with the EAVI2020 consortium. Its been very stimulating and he’s proud of how the lab hums along without him – a credit to all! We welcome to colleagues David and Shelby O’Connor from Wisconsin who are visiting us for a ~10 month sabbatical – they’ll be great additions to the lab as they are full of ideas and wonderful scientists. We also welcome Alessia Weiss to the lab for a few weeks finishing off a paper with Hannah. Milla McLean is taking a year off from medical school to spending a year back working with Amy from January which is exciting.

Stephen with colleague Lars Ostergaard from Denmark

Lots of great projects and papers on the go – it’s been a very productive year. The lab is currently dealing with reviewers from some major journals – fingers crossed. All our papers are team efforts so well done everyone.

We had several of us at the AIDS2018 conference in Amsterdam and there will be a reasonable contingent of us at the R4P HIV vaccine conference in Madrid later this year. Adam and Hyon-Xhi gave great presentations at a B cell Keystone meeting in Germany and similarly Jen and Kathleen gave great presentations at a T cell conference in France – we have many of the immune cell types covered!

Hillary finished her PhD in great style and immediately got a lecturer position at James Cook University in Queensland! She is retaining an honorary position here and we have lots of collaborative plans. Wen Shi, Matthew Worley and Kevin are busy writing up their theses at present!

May 2018

Congratulations to Amy Chung and her coauthors whose publication in the May issue of the Journal of Immunological Methods was featured as a news item on the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) webpages.

Hannah Kelly presenting her paper at the Australasian Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics Development Vaccine Conference: 16 – 18 May 2018, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, (VCCC) Melbourne, Australia.

Photo of Hannah Kelly presenting her paper at the AVID conference

December 2017

What a big year. We found out our NHMRC program grant got renewed with Stephen leading it – phew – see announcement . Stephen also found out he got his NHMRC fellowship renewed with a promotion to SPRF (phew again). Amy received a prestigious NHMRC CDF award and also received another NHMRC project grant – this one to work on Malaria antibodies with Dr Stephen Rogerson at the Doherty Institute. The lab celebrated the end of year with barefoot bowling – see photos below – and a little champagne of course.

We have plenty of people visiting friends and family overseas over the Xmas break – Hyon-Xhi, Wen Shi, Kevin, Matt, Yi, Timon and Sriveni I think are all overseas at present – the joys of having such as international lab group. Sinth is on his honeymoon at present in Europe – congratulations Sinth.

We are planning to welcome David and Shelby O’Connor here next August for a sabbatical. Both are highly respected HIV researchers who have expanded into multiple other pathogens. This continues a wonderful trans-pacific collaboration that started with a short sabbatical by Stephen in 2003! Dave was awarded a prestigious University of Melbourne Miegunyah followship to assist his sabbatical reflecting the esteem with which he is held here. Shelby has already been busy writing grants to kick off her research here. They are both quintessential “Doherty Institute-type” researchers with broad interests across infection and immunity and will add enormously to the Institute during their stay.

We wish everyone a great festive season.

Champagne celebration

Kent lab end of year lawn bowls Christmas function

September 2017

photo of Fernanda with baby
Fernanda seen together with Victoria (a future PhD candidate for the Kent Laboratory?)

We had another great Lab ski retreat recently with 18 attendees! Thanks to Hillary and Jane for organising so efficiently. Below are some photos. The snow was deep and the evenings were full of “Big Ideas” science, as well as lots of ideas to maintain our high levels of productivity, motivation and (don't roll your eyes) being grateful for all the help we have. We’re having a ‘Gratefulness” morning tea soon to thank everyone who keeps us humming along as a pretty big research venture.

All the new staff have settled in so well, with Ester, Robyn and Kathleen being hugely helpful to the productivity of Amy, Adam and Jen -  lots of great data coming out. Julius, Timon and Hannah’s PhD’s are off to flying starts. Kuangyu is already ½ way through his Masters!

Some fairly intense bleed schedules lately with very busy hood days – Vinca, Thakshila and Sriveni are doing a great job with help from Anne and everyone else. Clare and the team in Geelong have been a big help.

Stephen had an NHMRC program grant interview recently which was somewhat nerve-racking  - fingers crossed for the result. Jane has taken over the admin load of our program which is keeping her on her toes.

Fernanda (and Sergio) had a beautiful baby girl! And passed her PhD! And has another first author paper accepted! All in the space of about 2 weeks, phew.

June 2017

Lots of papers coming out recently – see the publications page - so many that we had to have a combined celebration with some special champagne. Things got a little out of hand, formula 1 podium style. See our Instagram site for a small flavour.  Congratulations to all the authors. A special mention to Matt for the Science Translational Medicine paper.

Taking a breather from NHMRC program and fellowship grants at present, whew. Jane has been a big help getting our program grant application in. Sinth and Adam are battling project grant reviewers at present. The NHMRC system is changing substantially next year.

A big welcome to Timon from Germany who is starting a PhD with Amy. Sinth has also formally joined our group and has lots of Flu ideas as ever. We have a new vet Clare who will be helping with the animal facility. A teary goodbye to Fernanda – she’s finished her PhD (assuming reviewers are kind!) and off to San Diego for more adventures! Josh is writing up and Hillary will be next to write up!

Stephen at the Keystone HIV Vaccines meeting in Colorado

Photo of Stephen and Anna Schorcht at the Keystone HIV Vaccines meeting in Colorado
Stephen seen together with Anna Schorcht at the recent Keystone HIV Vaccines Meeting in Colarado

Anna Schorcht, who spent a few months with us, is now doing a PhD in HIV vaccines in Amsterdam! Proud that we didn't turn her off science and HIV!

April 2017 PhD Graduations

Sarah on her graduation day
Dr Sarah Lloyd on her graduation day in March
Fernanda on the day of the Submission of her PhD
Fernanda Ana Sosa shortly after submitting her PhD thesis
Photo of Shay on her graduation day
Dr Shay Gooneratne on her graduation day in March
photo of Vijaya on her graduation day
Dr Vijaya Madhavi on her graduation day

February 2017

photo of Kent lab group on steps

Our expanded lab seems to be holding together. We are running out of desk and lab space but the department is thinking about ways to find us all some more space. Kathleen, Ester, Robyn, and Julius are all settling in and Timon will be starting soon. We were sad to see Milla head off to medical school. Vijaya has started a post-doc with Jamie Rossjohn’s group at Monash and we wish her well also (while she pulls together resubmissions of her last 2 papers!).

Matt is in Canada doing some work with AndrĂ©s Finzi’s group in Montreal. Kevin, Wen Shi and Kuangyu took some well-deserved time off for Chinese New Year. We’ve had some big bleed days lately with plenty of samples – well done to Vinca, Thakshila, Jen, Anne and everyone for pitching in to help. See our instagram site @kentlaboratory for some shots of the lab. Josh and Fernanda both sailed through various PhD committee meetings recently. Stephen and Jane have been busy submitting grants – ugh. More to come alas.

photo of Jeniffer Juno and the Christmas cake she made for us
Jennifer Juno and the Christmas cake she made for us
2017 Kent  lab group at lunch