CPTT connection to mRNA vaccine manufacture

Photo credit: Monash University

Since global development of vaccines for COVID-19 became a reality, we in Australia have identified the critical value of producing vaccines onshore. That goal first became a reality with the AstraZeneca vaccine being produced in Melbourne by CSL. However, as we are now all aware, production of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) could not be achieved so easily.

Recently the Victorian Government provided Monash University with $5million to manufacture the first batch of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine in Australia, to be used for clinical trials (utilising a vaccine candidate developed by researchers from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences). The team conducting this research is lead by CPTT chief investigator, Professor Colin Pouton.

Colin has been interviewed and quoted in many news articles and reports, especially in the last few months. However, we would like to draw your attention to a specific Opinion article Prof Pouton published in June in The Age newspaper titled ‘Australia set to join the mRNA vaccine revolution‘. Congratulations to Colin for bringing attention to the need for Australia to develop the manufacturing capabilities for production of medical and therapeutic technologies!

‘Materials, Mimics, & Microfluidics’ – CPTT conference success!

On July 21 – 23 our Centre participated in the ‘Materials, Mimics, & Microfluidics: Engineering Tools for Mechanobiology’ conference. In addition to members of our Centre being invited to present at the main meeting, we hosted two successful satellite meetings in Melbourne and Perth. The satellite events featured local researchers and the Melbourne event also included a PhD student ‘rapid fire’ session, sponsored by BOMP and MCN. Well done to Esther Lestrell and Tina Cheng who were the joint winners of the rapid fire session!

Congratulations to Dr Bryan Gao and Dr Roey Elnathan for their organisation of the Melbourne event, and to Dr Yu Suk Choi and Dr Brendan Kennedy for their organisation of the Perth event! All four were also invited speakers of the main conference and part of the meeting’s scientific committee. We thank them for their contributions to the conference and for their representation of ARC CPTT!

For those who were unable to attend and are interested to see more photos from the event, check out the hashtag #3M2021, which was used throughout the conference by participants from around the globe! Some of our own photos are included below.

2021 Organoids Are Us Symposium – Sponsored by ARC CPTT

The 2021 ‘Organoids Are Us’ symposium has been in planning for some time. Unfortunately the most recent lockdown in Melbourne has caused this event to go from in-person to virtual.

The ARC CPTT are delighted to be a Bronze Sponsor of the 2021 Organoids Are Us Symposium.

There is still time to register, and because the conference has gone virtual, registration is now FREE!

Click here to register, and view the flyer below to see details on the fantastic line up on national and international speakers! Congratulations to organisers, Professor Elizabeth Vincan and Dr Maree Faux.

2021 Women in Leadership Awards

In May the Royal Society of Victoria honored four exceptional leaders from the Biotech, Medtech and Pharmaceutical sectors of Victoria at the 2021 Women in Leadership Awards.

A heartfelt congratulations to all of the Awardees!

We are especially excited to congratulate Jennifer Herz, Managing Director of Biointelect and Partner Investigator in the CPTT. She was awarded the Inspiring Leadership Award for 2021! A fantastic honor that is well deserved. Congratulations Jenny!

Photo credit: BioMelbourne Network
From left: Dr Hannah Kirk (Emerging Leadership Awardee); Jennifer Herz (Inspiring Leadership Awardee); Dr Jenny Petering (Distinguished Leadership Awardee); A/Prof Margie Danchin (Board of Directors Awardee). Photo credit: BioMelbourne Network

International Women’s Day #IWD2021

Written by Centre Manager, Dr Susan Northfield

Today is International Women’s Day #IWD2021, and this year the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

Our Centre has embraced the challenge to ensure diversity, gender equality and inclusion from day one; specifically identifying it as one of our key policies to make certain the Centre promotes a positive and fair workplace culture for all participants at all times. This policy guides our processes and decision-making as we develop opportunities for the students and ECRs in our care.

In the spirit of #ChooseToChallenge, we want to shine a light on what this approach looks like for us. For example, Centre participants are expected to:

  • Ensure invited speakers, panel compositions, other representatives required for Centre training and conferences etc., are of diverse backgrounds, including gender;
  • Ensure we advertise in such a way as to attract and subsequently enroll representative numbers of male/female students and postdoctoral researchers in the Centre;
  • Provide diversity in mentor-mentee pairs;
  • Provide key contacts at each University for anyone experiencing discrimination;
  • Adhere to the ten principles of the Athena SWAN Charter

Today we celebrate the women of our Centre – students, postdocs, chief investigators, executive members, and industry board members. The photo accompanying this post shows a handful of the women at our University of Melbourne #ARCCPTT node, from the Department of Biochemistry & Pharmacology. I want to thank them and all members of the Centre for contributing to providing a diverse, inclusive and supportive environment as we commit to #ChooseToChallenge and call out inequality. #IWD2021

Funding success for CPTT CI’s

The Centre congratulates two of our CI’s – Prof Spencer Williams & Prof Alastair Stewart – on their successful Accelerator Grant from Therapeutic Innovation Australia!

Their grant “Development of casein kinase 1 delta inhibitors for inflammation, fibrosis and fibrotic cancers” is in collaboration with Tianli Biotech Pty Ltd.

Outcomes for the recent round were announced at the end of February. For the full list of winners, visit the Therapeutic Innovation Australia website: https://www.therapeuticinnovation.com.au/p-accelerator2020-21-outcomes

New study: What makes you prone to tendon & ligament injuries?

Why are some people more prone to tendon and ligament injury than others?

We are delighted to promote a recent study by one of our CI’s, Prof Minghao Zheng, Director of the Centre for Translational Orthopaedic Research at The University of Western Australia and Chief Scientific Officer of our industry partner Orthocell.
This study has been published in top medical journal, Science Translational Medicine on February 25th. See a copy of the article here:  http://bit.ly/3suluH5

Prof. Zheng noted that the study offers new insights in the medical world by highlighting genetic factors responsible for sports injuries, including the commonly reported ACL rupture.

You can view the University of Western Australia’s press release, including a short video, via this link: https://www.uwa.edu.au/news/Article/2021/February/Some-more-prone-to-tendon-and-ligament-injuries

“Engineering drug discovery: Process and Passion” – A Public Lecture from CPTT Director

On March 4th our Centre Director, Professor Alastair Stewart (Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, The University of Melbourne) was invited to give a lecture in the Graeme Clark Institute’s ‘Biomedical Engineering Advances’ lecture series at the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne.

Prof Stewart discussed the long and precarious path to success for development of therapeutics for lung disease. His presentation “Engineering drug discovery: Process and Passion” was well received by those in the audience and generated vibrant discussion afterward.

We are delighted to say that the lectures in this series are being recorded, and are available to view on YouTube. If you would like to watch Prof Stewart’s presentation, please follow this link.

Award for CI Megan Munsie

CI Munsie from our Melbourne University node has been awarded the 2018 Stephen Crook Memorial Prize for best authored book in Australian Sociology by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) for her book titled Stem Cell Tourism and the Political Economy of Hope.

Authors included CI Munsie and collaborator Dr Claire Tanner from the Stem Cell Centre and Jane Brophy a Monash PhD student CI Munsie co-supervised. The book is the culmination of an eight year collaboration with Prof Alan Petersen from Monash Arts Faculty which has been supported by an ARC Discovery grant and some additional seed funding from the Commonwealth Dept of Industry. 

The book was published in 2016 by Palgrave Macmillan as part of a Health, Technology and Society series and provides a unique and innovative perspective on the controversial phenomenon of ‘stem cell tourism’ where a growing number of patients are embarking on stem cell treatments that are clinically unproven and yet available in clinics and hospitals around the world. We describe this complex and rapidly changing phenomenon, including an analysis of the experiences of those who have undertaken or have contemplated undertaking a stem cell treatment, as well as examination of the views of those who undertake research or advise on or provide stem cell treatments. Developing the concept of ‘the political economy of hope’, and referencing case studies of the stem cell treatment market in China, Germany, and Australia, we call for a reframing of ‘stem cell tourism’ to understand why patients and families pursue these treatments and whether response by government authorities and others are appropriate and proportionate to the alleged risks.

Congratulations to the team for having their multidisciplinary work recognised.

New Publication – iScience

Researchers from the Melbourne University node of the ARC CPTT have published a  new paper in interdisciplinary (Cell Press) open access journal iScience titled “A Non-canonical Pathway with Potential for Safer Modulation of Transforming Growth Factor-β1 in Steroid-Resistant Airway Diseases“.

Highlights from the paper:
•TGF-β1 extensively impairs GC activity
•Phospho-cofilin1 is a key link of TGF-β1 signalling cascade subserving GC insensitivity
•Phospho-cofilin1-activated phospholipase D (PLD) reduces GC activity
•SMRT induction downstream of PLD mediates TGF-β1 impairment of GC activity

Impaired therapeutic responses to anti-inflammatory glucocorticoids (GC) in chronic respiratory diseases are partly attributable to interleukins and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). However, previous efforts to prevent induction of GC insensitivity by targeting established canonical and non-canonical TGF-β1 pathways have been unsuccessful. Here we elucidate a TGF-β1 signalling pathway modulating GC activity that involves in LIM domain kinase 2-mediated phosphorylation of cofilin1. Severe, steroid-resistant asthmatic airway epithelium showed increased levels of immunoreactive phospho-cofilin1. Phospho-cofilin1 was implicated in the activation of phospholipase D (PLD) to generate the effector(s) (lyso)phosphatidic acid, that mimic the TGF-β1-induced GC insensitivity. TGF-β1 induction of the nuclear hormone receptor corepressor, SMRT (NCOR2), was dependent on cofilin1 and PLD activity. Depletion of SMRT prevented GC insensititvity. This pathway for GC insensitivity offers several promising drug targets that potentially enable a safer approach to modulation of TGF-β1 in chronic inflammatory diseases than is afforded by global TGF-β1 inhibition.