Blogs 2019 - 2020
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.
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.
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.
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 lab meeting by Zoom
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.