We’re in the midst of moving the lab to the new Peter Doherty Institute. It’s only 100m away but it’s a brand new purpose-built building, very exciting. The process of moving isn’t that much fun but it’ll be wonderful when we get there. Vinca, Thakshila and Mikee are doing an excellent job coordinating things. We hope to make many new collaborations and consolidate existing ones at the PDI. Sharon Lewin has accepted the PDI director’s position, which is fantastic as she and Paul Cameron are great friends and collaborators and involved with our NHMRC program grant.
Lots of comings and goings in the lab. Caroline is in the final throes of her PhD – she hopes to be done in a couple of weeks. Marit is off to Denis Burton’s group in San Diego for a couple of weeks, then a conference and then….exciting news….. she’ll be on maternity leave. She looks radiant. Sinth is heading off to the NIH soon on his CJ Martin fellowship. Lewis has started his 6 month Medical School project with us and Wen Shi is helping us move and getting familiar with the lab in preparation for starting his honors year with us this year. We hope to have 3 new PhD students starting with us later this year. Vijaya is going to Canada for a few weeks – to a conference then visiting a lab in Vancouver to learn some antibody-purification techniques. Stephen was examining MD virologists in Sri Lanka recently and caught up with Shayarana’s parents. Shay's Dad is in the tea business although Stephen may not get a job picking tea (see photos!). Sarah spent a few weeks in Europe with her choir.
Rob is busy writing a project grant and Ivan a clinical fellowship application at present. We have Sarah’s and Hyon-Xhi’s PhD confirmations coming up shortly.
Ho, ho, ho, Merry Xmas to all. We have had a good month with results, PhD completions and grants. We were successful in 2 ACH2 grants (Matt and Marit) and a large ARC Centre of Excellence grant, which is great. Hyon-Xhi’s Flu-HIV vaccines look impressive in mice – a credit to all his hard work with Rob. Anna is starting to get nice results also after plenty of hard work and Sinth’s guidance. Sarah is busy with a macaque study with Vinca and Wendy’s guidance. Jeanette, Sinth and Leia are all done with their PhDs and Caroline is next. A few papers have been submitted lately – well done to Vijaya, Jeanette, Caroline, Ivan among others.
We have had multiple fun Xmas celebrations – at Stephen’s house, at a Geelong Restaurant with the animal house staff (see photo), at the Department and at the new PDI. Everyone is taking a bit of a break over Xmas in the lab (even Thakshila!). We wish you all the best of the season and we are looking forward to 2014.
Well the Melbourne Cup has been run and we’re in the home straight for Christmas. Anna Roos from the Netherlands is with us for 6 months or so and has been busy in the lab doing Flu ADCC stuff. Sinth and Jeanette are waiting on their thesis reviews, Caroline is in the throes of the last chapter or 2. Caroline graciously took us out to a lovely dinner in Lygon street after her oration recently. I think we’ll have 3 new PhD students next year by the looks of things.
Sinth recently received as NHMRC early career fellowship to work at the NIH next year. I think it means he will be back in the department in a few years! Marit and Wendy missed out on their NHMRC grants but have bounced back with ACH2 applications, along with submissions from Rob on Hyon-Xhi’s Flu-HIV vectors and Matt on a passive transfer study. Plenty of papers accepted lately, including nice ones from Matt and Sinth and Sarah’s first! Vijaya and Ivan are busy putting the finishing touches on a couple of papers.
Fernanda is off to ASI in New Zealand in early December. A few of us arrived back safely from AIDS Vaccine in Barcelona. We caught up with old Kent lab members Marjon Navis and Amy Chung there. Rosie Mason was going to be there but got stuck with the US government shutdown. Marit gave a good talk and our posters were well received. Leia was passing through Barcelona on her tour of Europe so it was good to see her also. She’s scouting out jobs as well as having a great holiday.
Matt is heading back to Canada for Thanksgiving and Xmas soon for a nice break. Sinth had a quick trip to New York accepting his American-Australian fellowship award. Shay has had her knee fixed up recently – we wish her a speedy recovery. Her parents are out from Sri Lanka visiting.
Anna from the Netherlands is busy with ADCC assays. She had a birthday recently – see cake photo. She has friends and relatives from her native Sweden coming out to visit.
We’re getting excited about the move to the PDI. Thakshila and Vinca have been busy organising things and throwing things out!
Spring is in the air. Jeanette is hoping to hand her thesis in before she jets off to Barcelona. Sinth has handed in his thesis after the usual last minute high drama. Caroline’s chapters are coming together well. Leia is trying to print her final thesis while couch surfing in Europe!
Sinth is now busy finishing off his multiple projects. He and Matt will be helping supervise a PhD student, Anna Roos, who is spending some time with us from the Netherlands studying Flu immunity. Sinth has plans for a post doc at the NIH but there are a few logistic steps to get through before he heads off. He recently found out he was awarded an American-Australian fellowship to help him on his way. Well done Sinth! Amy Chung won the same fellowship a few years ago and got to meet Rupert Murdoch and Hugh Jackman at a gala dinner so we’ll see who Sinth can meet.
STOP-PRESS - Sinth recently won the Department's PhD achievment award sponsored by Qiagen - see photo of Sinth recieving hte award with his usual grimace/smile. This award recognises outstanding PhD students. Our lab has a proud history of winning this award now! The lab is looking forward to sharing the spoils of the award ($1000!), especially since we had to convince him to apply for it! Apparently the cheque is in the mail.
Hyon-Xhi si having a well deserved break in Malaysia where he is best man at a wedding. His Flu viruses are coming together nicely. Marit, Wendy, Matt and Shayarana had a good trip to Perth with our NHMRC program grant meeting – plenty of collaboration talk.
We recently found out we were awarded an Australia-India Strategic Research Fund award to collaborate with investigators at the National AIDS Research Institute in Pune India. Vijaya was a huge help putting this grant together. Pune is "not far" from her home town in India. Its a great opportunity to collaborate closely on some important ADCC studies.
PhD final oration season is upon us. Sinth gave a great oration recently, highlighted by his extensive acknowledgments. It was great to meet his family also, some of our loyal website fans. Jeanette has her oration coming up soon and Caroline’s is in October.
Plenty of activity in the lab. Fernanda was very excited to hear she got an MPhil scholarship recently. She’s off to a flying start developing a nice antibody-dependent phagocytosis assay with Marit’s guidance. Vijaya really enjoyed the IAS conference in KL recently and is now back juggling her projects. Shay’s PhD was confirmed recently and she is giving a talk at the ASHM conference later this year. Her dodgy knee is getting fixed soon too. Jeanette got a scholarship to the AIDS vaccine conference in Barcelona later this year and is hoping to submit her thesis before she leaves. Vinca is churning out the data on our nanoparticle collaboration with Rob’s guidance. Stephen was part of a big nano-bio grant submitted to the ARC recently – fingers crossed on that one. Sarah excelled at the HIV course in Hong Kong and received a nice book for her efforts. Wendy is busy helping Phillipa get started with her 3rd year project. Ivan has a paper on the go on his HIV cohort. Thakshila is our new safety and compliance officer in the lab, quietly spoken but persistent! Caroline is transferring all her knowledge over while she writes up her PhD. Hyon-Xhi’s flu constructs are coming along nicely.
The Curry night at Wendy’s was a great success – no debacle in sight. The curries were all delicious – including a chocolate Mexican curry from Fernanda. There were many impressive Sari’s on display. Stephen thought he had a nice hanky in his top pocket, but it turned out to be a hat. Sinth’s glamorous outfit was quite a hit.
Busy in the lab. Leia has submitted her PhD thesis (phew) and is working with us part time while she waits on her reviews and gets ready for a big overseas trip. Caroline, Jeanette and Sinth are writing up their PhD theses presently, which is exciting if arduous. We will have 2 new 3rd year prac students working with us during the second semester, Wen Shi working with Marit and Phillippa working with Wendy. Both are incredibly clever and we have high hopes for them. Lewis Tang will be returning to work with Matt for 6 months at the start of next year during his medical school elective.
Wendy, Sarah, Shay and Stephen attended the recent ACH2 conference in the Blue Mountains and all gave well-received talks. Photos below. Sarah found out she got a scholarship to attend a Hong Kong HIV course for 2 weeks soon (with an exam at the end!) which is exciting. Marit just found out she was awarded a travel grant by the Global Virus Network to spend time in a US lab learning how to isolate HIV ADCC antibodies. Vijaya was awarded a full scholarship to attend the IAS HIV conference in Malaysia soon (she has 2 presentations!) so is busily generating data. Matt presented his work at the “30 years of HIV” conference in Paris recently to great interest. Stephen recently got together with all the animal staff for dinner in Geelong to thank them for all their dedicated work.
The new Peter Doherty Institute building is coming along well – predictions are that we may be moving in December this year. There have been various “walk-throughs” to see the new lab and office space. We’re excited about increased opportunities to collaborate with all the PDI partners.
Well we reached 150 publications! Caroline was the lucky productive scientist who had the honor of being first author on #150 so in consultation with others in the lab we had a nice dinner out in St Kilda - see photo. Stephen gave a "motivational" talk about his (lack of) management style much to everyone's mirth. Overall I think we realised how fortunate we are to have such a good lab and great staff. Stephen was presented with a rather unusual/quirky framed photo of the lab staff huddling in the cold making the numbers (with a little imagination) 150 - see below. We had all the Melbourne Uni staff there, except Sinth who helped organise it but then realised his flight to Hawaii to attend the American Association of Immunology conference was on the same evening! Anyway, it was a great success and everyone is now striving for #200!
In other news, the lab is working well as an immigration agent - Marit got her permanent residency visa recently which is great news. This simplifies her life no end and makes it possible to apply for Australian grants. We are now working on our resident Canuck. Wendy is threatening to organise a dinner where we have to wear our national dress and bring a curry. Watch out for the red carpet photos of that one.
Our website gets quite a lot of interest from prospective students and other researchers which is great - thank you to our dedicated readers. I don't regularly track our "hits" etc but am told by those in the know that there is an unusual number of hits from the area around Warnambool in Victoria. Thank you to our fans down there.
Stephen's plaque awarded to him by the lab for reaching the 150 publication milestone
The year is in full swing. Two new PhD students have started – Sarah Lloyd who did honors with us last year and will be working with Wendy of SIV evolution and Hong-Xhi Tan who comes to us via Malaysia and NZ. Hong-Xhi will be working with Rob on Influenza-HIV vaccine projects. Leia, Caroline and Jeanette are all planning to finish their PhDs year, and maybe even Sinth later this year! Marit and Wendy are busy with NHMRC project grants at present.
Ivan has had a good couple of months – he recently heard that he won the Fenner award from the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases. The Fenner award is given annually for ID physicians who have PhDs and have a substantial portfolio of original research. It’s like an Oscar for young physician-scientists in Infectious Diseases! He gave a stirring acceptance speech at the annual ASID meeting in Canberra. See the red carpet photo.
Stephen had an interesting trip to Sri Lanka examining MD virology students there. He also got to meet and have dinner with Shayarana's lovely parents there - see photo below.
The lab has had a productive few months in terms of papers coming out – see our publication page. We are planning a celebration when we reach 150 papers!
Stephen with Shayarana's parents in Sri Lanka
A busy year for lab with plenty of papers and grants. We recently found out we got our NHMRC program grant renewed for 2014-2018 which is exciting. Ivan just found out he was awarded the 3 year David Bickart Clinician Fellowship from the University of Melbourne which is another feather in his cap. Marit was awarded an early career grant from UM also.
Matt has a medical student Lewis working in the lab for the next few months. He's very clever and picking up things quickly; we have high hopes for him.
Sinth’s paper on Flu ADCC was recently accepted in J Immunol – very exciting with more to follow we hope. Quite a lot of papers in various drafts and resubmissions at the moment.
There is a bit of a homeland holiday exodus in the lab. Vinca has been back to the Phillipines for a holiday and to see family and Thakshila is off to Sri Lanka – she hasn’t been back since she arrived 6 years ago so it’s quite exciting. Shay is heading to Sri Lanka for a holiday in January also.
We had a nice lab lunch for Xmas recently and the staff in Geelong got together at the Zoo and a restaurant in Werribee also. All the best to the lab and all our collaborators for a safe and enjoyable Christmas.
We’re excited Matt Parsons has arrived from Canada for a post-doc. Matt spent 6 months here during his PhD and was amazingly productive so we have high hopes for him! Sarah has handed in her honors thesis after much hard work and is preparing for the oral defense. Well done Sarah. Mark our 3rd year student has given his final presentation and made great headway also. Well done to Wendy for mentoring them both.
There were several presentations from the lab at the recent ASHM conference – well done to all concerned (see photos of proud poster presenters below). We were very fortunate to get an NHMRC project grant on influenza immunity together with Pat Reading – well done to Sinth for generating masses of exciting preliminary data. Sinth is busy now tidying up several publications. Jeanette has recently submitted an important manuscript and Caroline has one that is quite close. Stephen also recently received an NHMRC fellowship renewal and promotion; that’s a relief. We recently had an interview for a renewal of our NHMRC program grant – fingers crossed on the outcome of that one!
We’re hopeful that one or two PhD students will join us next year depending on the outcome of scholarship applications. Leia, Jeanette and Caroline are heading towards the end of their PhDs - all have tons of data and papers etc. Vijaya is preparing for her PhD confirmation shortly. Marit has recently been mentoring Fernanda in the lab who is thinking about a Masters. Ivan has been busy writing fellowships and grants. Stephen got to have his photo with the University Chancellor recently for recieving an award for PhD supervision- photo below.
Gamze graduated with her PhD recently – a proud day for all - see photo below. She’s off to Montreal and Nicole Bernard’s lab to start a post-doc soon. In an exchange with Canada, Matt Parsons is arriving back soon in the coming weeks to start a post-doc here.
Marit was recently selected as a Victorian “Fresh Science” finalist - this is teaching her how to present her work to journalists and lay audiences. See photo below. She just found out she has made to the national finals. Well done Marit. Stephen found out he won a National Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, reflecting the good fortune he’s had to have a great crop of past and present PhD students come through the lab.
Plenty of papers on the go. Sinth, Jeanette, Caroline and Vijaya are all busily writing and revising papers and Leia has a thesis chapter on the go. Leia’s paper on LTNP was recently accepted. Wendy and Marit are buried with grant applications. Shay has started her PhD and busy sequencing by Illumina. Sarah’s honors project is coming to a frenetic end with plenty of data – lot’s left to do for a PhD though!
Sinth and Leia both won awards for their presentations at the recent ACH2 conference! And Ivan and Gamze are media stars with the ADCC escape stuff (see photo below).
There is a bit of a lab exodus going on at the moment - Marjon is finishing her post-doc and heading to a great lab at the Karolinska in Sweden. We wish her well. Leia is off to Mark Connors lab at the NIH and is also going to visit Duke University and McGill University on a 6 week trip. Matt returns to Canada in a few weeks - he's been amazingly productive in his time here and we hope he comes back for a post-doc one day! Caroline and Gamze are off to the IAS conference in Rome in July. Gamze is also visiting labs in the UK and Holland putting some feelers out for a post doc next year. Stephen is sitting on a grant panel soon (ugh!) and off to Rome also.
Exciting new data from the lab shows that HIV-specific ADCC responses can force immune escape. This strongly suggests ADCC applies significant pressure to HIV. This was recently published in PNAS and attracted some media interest. Reports appeared in The Age andScience Illustrated amongst others. This gives us strong clues about designing better HIV vaccines.
In other news, the staff in Geelong are doing really well under Megan's leadership. Recent photos of the team are below.
Breaking news: Dr Amy Sexton in the lab has become a Mum! She has a beuatiful daughter Neroli. The preganancy and birth were not without their challenges. She and Neroli even made the local Melbourne papers - see The Age and Sun websites. Amy is taking some well-earned maternity leave!
In other news, the lab remains busy with Flu-SIV vaccine studies. Jeanette and Caroline have the PhD confirmations coming up. Vinca is busy looking after a work-experience student Mikee at the moment. The ADCC crew of of Ivan, Marjon, Gamze, Leia and now Matt have been making great headway understanding these fascinating immune responses. Ivan is writing grants at the moment. Matt from Canada is fitting in really well and churning out interesting data.
Lots of movement in the lab and exciting projects continue. Sinth did really well during his honors year and is keen to stay on as a PhD student. We're busy writing up some of his really interesting data gained following the development of a Flu- specific MHC tetramer for our monkeys. Sinth also won a young investigator award at the ACH2 conference this year. Way to go Sinth!
Rob De Rose won a highly sought after Career Development Award from the NHMRC this year. This gives him 4 years of funding to pursue his projects. The NHMRC is very stingy with these awards - its a real coup for Rob. It's great recognition of all the hard work he has put in over the years to get him to this point. In addition to his lab work, Rob has recently helped set up a charity organisation that is hoping to contribute back to medical research. www.isabellaandmarcusfund.org.au
Amy Chung has headed off to Harvard to do a post-doc with Galit Alter. Sad to see her go but very proud! Amy was awarded a prestigious America-Australia Scholarship to help with this. Congratulations Amy. See the photo below of Amy with Hugh Jackman attending the America-Australia gala dinner. Whoa!
Amy Sexton has been busy in the lab as well as co-supervising Sinth and working with Rachel. Amy has been organising a symposium on HIV prevention sponsored by the Global HIV Vaccine enterprise coming up on December 1st, world AIDS day. The forum went really well - a report and with photos can be found here .
Vinca has recently been to the Phillipines to visit her ill sister. Marjon has been up to the barrier reef on holidays and assures us that the red tinge to her pale skin is actually a tan. Thakshila will be moving full time to the Robins-Browne lab in the coming months - she'll be greatly missed! In the meantime she's busy running real-time PCR assays with Liyen's guidance from afar.
Leia is preparing for her PhD confirmation meeting and is looking forward to trips to both Thailand and the NIH to collaborate on ADCC immunity studies. Gamze is making a lot of headway with her Pol ADCC studies and antibody sequencing. Caroline and Jeanette are making great strides with their phD studies also - hopefully everyone is on track to submit in good time!
We have a visiting PhD student Matt Parson from MacGill University in Canada (what is it about Canadians and Queenslanders wanting to work in this lab?) coming in January 2011. Matt won a prestigous CIHR travelling scholarship to help him come to the lab. Matt is interested in exploring the genetics of NK cells and how this influences ADCC immunity.
Stephen just heard he won a prize from the Royal Australasian College of Physcians - the Eric Susman prize for the best contribution to the knowledge of any branch of internal medicine. He's very honored.
Our lab has 3 new enthusiastic PhD students (Caroline Fernandez, Jeanette Reece and Leia Wren) and an Honours student (Sinth Jegaskanda).
Jeanette has been a research assistant with us for several years and is taking the big step of undertaking a PhD. She’ll be studying mucosal immunity to our Flu/SIV vaccines to see how well we’re doing at inducing immunity in the right places. Caroline has also been a research assistant with is for many years, and is now undertaking a PhD looking at NKT cells in macaques. She has identified some ways of trying to stimulate these T cells and we want to see whether this will enhance immunity to our vaccines. Both Jeanette and Caroline were awarded prestigious NHMRC PhD scholarships. Leia has moved down from Queensland to do a PhD with us. She comes with a good background in immunology and flow cytometry and is starting up some studies with us on ADCC. Sinth is also a very enthusiastic honours student, identifying Flu specific T cell responses in our macaques. He has got off to a flying start also.
Some of the really dedicated Geelong team!
The Kent lab's Liyen Loh (2nd from the left) was recently awarded the QIAGEN PhD achievement award. Liyen's PhD studies have so far resulted in 7 publications, including 3 first-author manuscripts
Some of our staff in Geelong in 2010: Angel Rogers, Clare McClumpha, Stephen, Megan Schepers, Leanne Smith and Justin Evans. Recent additions to the team are Nick Eades, Benjamin Bailey-Webb and Isaac Fletcher
Runners-up in the Vice-Chancellors Cup, University of Melbourne Golf Day (left to right): Viv Peut, Stephen Kent, Rob De Rose and Ian Gust
Stephen and the rest of the lab have also been pretty busy. We recently had a three-day retreat in Adelaide with collaborators from our NHMRC Program Grant. Rob, Marjon, Caroline and Amy all presented their collaborative research. We got some new ideas for new collaborations so things are moving forward well.
Stephen has also recently been to Bangkok to provide some input on the way forward following the exciting results of the RV144 Thai vaccine trial. This recent large clinical trial enrolled over 16,000 people and showed a significant but modest (31%) efficacy of a canarypox prime and protein boost vaccine regimen. This was somewhat unexpected in the scientific community but provides a window into the sorts of immune responses that might assist protective immunity. There are several hints that ADCC responses could be contributing which we are actively studying. Stephen has also recently been to Indonesia to meet our long-term collaborators at the Bogor Agricultural University Primate Research Centre for their 20th anniversary.
The other collaborative venture that we are involved with is a group called the AIDS Vaccines for Asia Network (AVAN). Stephen attended recent meetings in Beijing and Shanghai about this and Amy Chung from the lab spent 3 weeks in Beijing teaching the ADCC assay to Dr Yiming Shao’s group and helping run through plasma samples through the ICS ADCC assay on a large cohort there.
The sad news in the lab is that Liyen Loh recently headed off to Doug Nixon’s lab in San Francisco to start her post-doc. Liyen was a fantastic PhD student and person and we’re really going to miss her.
In other movements around the lab, Ivan recently attended the Keystone HIV vaccine meeting and had a lot of interest in his ADCC projects. Amy Sexton has recently been to Egypt for a conference. Both Gamze and Amy Chung attended the CROI meeting and had a lot of interest in their oral poster presentations on ADCC there.
The lab is pretty busy with a reasonably large vaccine study going on at the moment in collaboration with John Stambas who is now at Deakin. Vinca and Thakshila are being kept busy with plenty of assays and blood samples and are doing their usual highly efficient job. They are being ably assisted by Rachel Van Staden, an excellent third year student who started working with us over summer.