Professor Rob Miller

Center for Evolutionary & Theoretical Immunology Biology Department
University of New Mexico – USA

Dr. Rob Miller is a Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico.  He is a founding member and current Director of the Center for Evolutionary & Theoretical Immunology at UNM and also directs its Molecular Biology Core.  In addition Professor Miller has served as a Program Director and, more recently, the Deputy Division Director of the Division of Integrative Organismal Biology in the Directorate for Biological Science at the U.S. National Science Foundation.  While at NSF, Professor Miller initiated the Enabling Discovery through GEnetic tools (EDGE) program aimed at genomically enabling a broader range of non-model or emerging model species.  He has a more than two-decade history of collaboration with Australian colleagues and in 2010 was a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Miller is an immunologist interested in evolution and development of cells of the adaptive vertebrate immune system.  He has worked with a wide variety of species including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, but with a particular focus on the marsupials and monotremes.  Most recently his research has focused on unconventional T cell receptors and novel T cell subsets, the majority of which were discovered in his laboratory.

Dr Sarah Shigdar

Senior Lecturer in Medical Science, Deakin University

Dr Sarah Shigdar is the President of the International Society on Aptamers and is currently employed as a senior academic at Deakin University. She is the Head of the Laboratory of Aptamer Theranostics and leads a large research group that focuses on the development of novel chemical antibodies that can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Diagnostically, these include medical imaging and companion diagnostics, point of care devices and rapid diagnostics. Therapeutically, these novel molecules have shown efficacy in a number of cancers, both in vitro and in vivo and her current interest is in developing effective treatments for brain metastases and brain cancers. While Dr Shigdar’s research focus is on cancer theranostics, she champions the use of aptamers and is collaborating on a number of projects worldwide to aid researchers to switch to aptamers for their applications and assays.

Dr Kirsty Short

Australia Research Council DECRA research fellow in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia

Dr Short completed a PhD in 2013 at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne. In 2013 she was also awarded an NHMRC CJ Martin Early Career Fellowship to go to the Netherlands to work in the Department of Virosciences at Erasmus Medical Centre. She returned to Australia at the end of 2015 and in 2017 she established her independent research group at the University of Queensland. She works on many different aspects of influenza virus pathogenesis, including understanding how the flu virus affects different animal species, investigating the role of the immune system in severe flu infections and the interactions between the flu and chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Professor Kenneth Beagley

Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Queensland University of Technology – Australia

Ken Beagley is a Professor of Immunology at Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. He has worked in the area of mucosal immunology for the past 30 years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Newcastle prior to moving to QUT. Current research interests focus on immunity to sexually transmitted infections, in particular Chlamydia trachomatis. The aim of these studies is to define and differentiate the mechanisms of immune-mediated inflammatory pathology caused by Chlamydia infection from the immune mechanisms that protect against chlamydial infection and to use this information to develop effective chlamydial vaccines. This work involves the use of both mouse and guinea pig models of chlamydial infection and has recently been extended to include development of a chlamydial vaccine for the koala. In all of these studies, novel needle-free mucosal vaccination routes, which target immunity to the female and male reproductive tracts are being evaluated alongside conventional injectable methods of immunization. Other research interests include the effects of chlamydial infections on spermatogenesis and male fertility and on ovarian function and modulation of innate and adaptive immunity by sex hormones.

A/Prof Lee Skerratt

One Health Research Group
Melbourne Veterinary School – Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences
The University of Melbourne –  Australia

The advancement of knowledge in wildlife health arising from my research has resulted in the study of solutions to better control emerging wildlife diseases, especially major fungal diseases such as chytridiomycosis and white-nose syndrome. Dr Skerratt’s research has focused on developing methods for disease risk analysis, surveillance, diagnosis, outbreak investigation, captive assurance colonies, treatment and habitat modification and preservation. In the last six years his work on immunity to chytridiomycosis has demonstrated that manipulation of innate immunity is the most promising approach to secure species in the long term and restore their ecological function. He showed for the first time that chytridiomycosis is among the most formidable diseases similar to malaria, in that most hosts are highly susceptible to a second exposure. He also discovered mechanisms of innate immunity and assessed their potential for artificial selection. He also uncovered other mechanisms of disease resilience such as increased recruitment but found that they increased species vulnerability to other stressors such as drought. An exceptional experiment compared susceptibility between alpine tree frogs raised from a naïve population and those from nearby long-exposed areas (~20 years) in both the lab and field. Immunity differed among individuals and among clutches. Exploiting this variation enabled discovery of alleles of MHC Class II genes that were correlated with improved survival in alpine tree frogs. His more recent studies have used transcriptomics and metabolomics to show that an early immune response is protective and have sought to characterise the genes involved. His current work on evolution of immunity to and virulence of chytridiomycosis will help deliver significant innovation in the science and management of wildlife diseases by providing additional understanding of immune mechanisms. This knowledge will enable delivery of long term conservation and ecological benefits through the manipulation of genes that have an effect on disease resilience such as those associated with innate rather than adaptive immunity.

Dr Sri Ramarathinam

Biomedicine Discovery Institute Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Monash University – Australia

Over the course of the last decade, Sri has contributed to the field of proteomics and immunology by designing and executing experiments to address biomedical and biological issues. He played a role in development of immunopeptidomics methodologies that involve studying peptides presented within the groove of membrane bound Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) or Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins. These peptide-HLA complexes are crucial for immune surveillance and play a key role in viral and tumour immunity. During his PhD, he generated data sets to uncover HIV peptides that extend the groove of HLA molecules and later reported the first known sequence of peptide naturally presented by HLA molecules that has a modified tryptophan residue, urging researchers to look for kynurenine (product of tryptophan catabolism catalysed by indolamine 2,3-dioxygenase) peptides. He is part of the Immunopeptidomics laboratory (Monash University) that has interests in all aspects of antigen processing and presentation in species including bat, Tasmanian devil, mouse and human. Sri has utilised immunoaffinity purification workflows to study antigen presentation in Tasmanian devil within the context of facial tumour disease. His research interests include development of new methodologies to advance proteomics to address questions in virology, antigen processing and presentation, cancer and autoimmunity.

Dr Yuanyuan Cheng

School of Life and Environmental Sciences – Faculty of Science
The University of Sydney – Australia

I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney, followed by postdoctoral positions at USYD and the University of Queensland. I have recently moved back to USYD to join the Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group. Yuanyuan is experienced in various types of genomic and transcriptomic data analysis, from next-gen (454, Illumina) to 3rd generation sequencing (PacBio). Her current research is focused on using genomics approaches to study infectious disease, cancer, and host immunology and immunogenetics in wildlife species (e.g. Tasmanian devil, koala). She is also interested in microbiomes and their implications on host health in animals living in captivity.

A/Prof Anne Peters

ARC Future Fellow
Head, Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology of Birds Research Group

We use an integrative approach to understand costs and benefits of attributes of animals, combining observations with experiments and comparative studies. One of the main research themes concerns the mechanisms that govern trade-offs between key life-history components: how do animals balance investment in the pursuit of mating opportunities, parental care and their own health. Research in the group focuses on behaviour, physiology and evolutionary ecology of wild birds. Currently, our main field project involves a long-term study of purple-crowned fairy-wrens, Maluruscoronatus, in the Kimberley region of north-west Australia, but we also work on a local population of superb fairy-wrens (M. cyaneus).