News and Events

ANZAC’s Dendritic Cell Research laboratory instrumental in commercialism of a potential therapeutic

November 1, 2019

Kira Biotech’s research program is based on decades of research led by the late Professor Derek Hart and Associate Professor Georgina Clark while working at the Mater Medical Research Institute, the ANZAC Research Institute and The University of Sydney. Many Australian collaborators over the past decade have also contributed to the research, in particular, those researchers involved in the CRC for Translational Biomarkers, Sydney Local Health District, the University of Queensland and the University of California, San Francisco. Associate Professor Clark said the launch of Kira Biotech marks an important moment in her career and highlights the enormous effort by many dedicated scientists to translate research from the bench to bedside. “I am thrilled our research has attracted the capital and management team necessary to move it towards the clinic and closer to helping patients. KB312 is an example of an Australian technology that has potential for global health impact with its differentiated treatment approach,” said Associate Professor Clark.

Kira Biotech Series A funding press release

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ANZAC Research Institute Discovery Newsletter August 2019

New Discovery Newsletter Available – August 2019

September 4, 2019

ANZAC Research Institute Discovery Newsletter August 2019See our latest ANZAC Research Institute Discovery Newsletter – August 2019.

Some of the main news items:

  • Discover why some Australians are more likely to have cardiovascular disease
  • Sydney hosts International Asian Oceanic CMT Conference
  • Young Investigator Award for Andrology Research into Male Fertility
  • A Rewarding Partnership – NSW Ministery of Health Grant
  • Sacrifice Was Not In Vane – An edited version of an address given by ANZAC Research Institute chairman, Prof. Bob Lusby.

>> Click here to download

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ANZAC Research Institute Discovery Newsletter March 2019

New Discovery Newsletter available

March 22, 2019

ANZAC Research Institute Discovery Newsletter March 2019Learn how research at the ANZAC is putting the breaks on breast cancer, how a generous bequest has provided new equipment in the fight against disease and how blood research could mean better outcomes for Cardiovascular patients. All in the latest ANZAC Research Institute Discovery Newsletter:

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High Performance Computing

Neurobiology Group Research Team Up With Raijin

December 12, 2018
High Performance Computing

Neurobiology group research team up with Raijin to study Inherited peripheral neuropathies.

High Performance Computing (HPC) are banks of specialist computers with large amounts of cores, memory, interconnects and fast storage. Raijin, named after the Shinto God of thunder, lightning and storms, is a hybrid Fujitsu Primergy and Lenovo NeXtScale high-performance, distributed-memory cluster, located at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) facility in Canberra. Raijin@NCI is from funding from the Australian Government, through its Super Science Initiative (under the EIF Climate HPC Centre Funding Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Australian National University), as well as through the 2015-16 Agility Fund of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. Grants are administered through Intersect.

The Neurobiology group at the ANZAC have recently been awarded a grant for to utilise resources at Raijin@NCI for research into Inherited peripheral neuropathies (IPNs). The aim of their research is to identify dysregulated genes in families that suffer from this genetic condition to improve diagnosis and treatment.

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ANZAC Research Institute 17th Annual Symposium

ANZAC Research Institute holds 17th Annual Symposium

October 30, 2018
ANZAC Research Institute 17th Annual Symposium

On the 18th of October, the ANZAC Research Institute held its 17th Annual Symposium on “Lessons from the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project (CHAMP)”. The keynote speakers were Professor Bob Cumming who presented an overview of the history and results of the project, then followed by:

  • Vasi Naganathan presenting on “Geriatric Syndromes in Older Men”,
  • Ben Hsu presenting on “Androgen Status of Older Men – Cause or Consequence of Poor Health”,
  • Fiona Stanaway presenting on “Health of Italian-Born Older Men”,
  • David Le Couteur AO presenting on “Nutrition, Obesity and Lifespan”,
  • Clive Wright presenting on “Oral Health of Older Men”.

The CHAMP project is a multidisciplinary epidemiological study and was designed to provide a wide range of new information about the health of older men. CHAMP began in 2005 when 1705 men, aged 70 years and over, were recruited to the study and interviewed for baseline results. Since then, follow ups have been conducted every two to three years. It is one of the world’s largest ongoing older men’s research projects.

The symposium presented how CHAMP continues to provide a wealth of research opportunities in basic science, clinical medicine, epidemiology and psychosocial aspects of ageing.

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advances in microscope facility - Dr Vivien Chen

Amazing advances in microscope facility

January 15, 2018

A research equipment grant of $365,000 from the Cancer Institute of NSW has enabled the ANZAC Research Institute to purchase an incredibly powerful microscope which allows scientists to examine cells within living animals.

advances in microscope facility - Dr Vivien Chen

A research equipment grant of $365,000 from the Cancer Institute of NSW has enabled the ANZAC Research Institute to purchase a remarkably powerful microscope which allows scientists to examine cells within living animals. Already the high speed, multichannel fluorescence microscope is providing state of the art images and assisting researchers in many fields to advance their projects.

The application for the equipment grant was co-ordinated across ten research groups within the ANZAC Research Institute, the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute and the Centenary Institute, all of which are now seeing significant benefits.

Dr Vivien Chen, Staff Specialist Haematologist at Concord Hospital and Leader of the Platelet and Thrombosis Research Laboratory at ARI, says recent developments in microscopy have contributed to astonishing advances in scientists’ ability to produce images of biological processes.
“We can put a live mouse onto the platform, then, by fluorescent tagging the cells, activation markers, or proteins of interest, we can directly visualise events occurring in real time within our animal models.

advances in microscope facility - microscope images

“My group is interested in the process of blood clot formation in the context of heart attack, stroke or cancer, all condition which have associated deep venous thrombosis. Using this microscope, we can image the blood flow within a vessel and watch the blood clot. For the first time, we can measure the rate of individual platelets as they come in to form the clot and monitor the stabilising proteins as they form around the blood clot.

“Thus, when we develop drugs for inhibiting blood clot formation, in our search for therapies for improving outcomes after a heart attack or stroke, or for prevention of deep vein thrombosis or potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, we don’t just have to test it in a test tube. We can evaluate them in a live model where all the components of the clotting system are together: the blood vessel, the blood components and the forces of blood flow. This becomes a very powerful experiment bringing us much closer to translation to the clinic.”

Dr Chen explains that the microscope also allows researchers to look at the underlying mechanism of biological processes.

“So if you’re interested in a particular protein and a particular pathway you can modify that pathway either genetically or pharmacologically, and by comparing that mouse with a wild-type mouse with the pathway intact, you can get some powerful information about how that pathway is working in that biological system.”

The new equipment is proving to be invaluable in cancer research. Being able to view a live animal means, for example, that researchers can watch to see how a drug is able to get within a tumour. The team at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute is using fluorescence to see how deeply a drug penetrates a tumour and which cells it is getting into. The Biogenerentology group can directly image drugs as they are delivered to the liver cells.

Another example of the use of this powerful microscope is the Northcott Neurogenetics group who are investigating inherited forms of nerve damage due to inherited defects in pathways that nerves require to function over long distances. To mimic that disease in the laboratory, those neuroscientists working on new treatment targets uses worms that glow fluorescently so they can study these living organisms viewed under the microscope. By this means the scientists can study for the first time the direct effects of an abnormal gene or protein suspected of causing human nerve damage on the worm’s ability to move normally.

As Dr Chen says, the new equipment has been a welcome addition to the facilities available at the ANZAC Research Institute, enabling researchers in various fields to continue to contribute at the highest level internationally. In particular, it provides a valuable step in the process of translating the findings in fundamental research made at the Institute into the development of new treatments for disease.

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Professor Derek Hart

Remembering Professor Derek Hart

December 1, 2017
Professor Derek Hart
Professor Derek Hart

Professor Derek Hart was a passionate, driven and inspired clinician scientist who had a consuming motivation to improve medical care through a life committed to medical research. Through a career full of achievements he made many important discoveries that together built his grand vision for immune therapies based on dendritic cells as novel therapeutics for solid and liquid cancers as well as immunosuppression and controlling graft vs host disease.

Derek Hart was born and educated in New Zealand, graduating in 1976 with distinction and numerous awards from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Otago. After graduation he initially started on surgical training before winning a Rhodes Scholarship and, in 1981, submitting his DPhil on transplantation antigens while working at the Nuffield Department of Surgery, Oxford University. There he met his wife, Dr Georgina Clark, an Australian post-doctoral fellow co-worker forging a formidable career-long scientific team. Through these studies, Derek was particularly proud to have been the first to identify human dendritic cells, critical effectors in immune rejection, soon after Ralph Steinman’s 2011 Nobel Prize-winning discovery of dendritic cells in the mouse. In 1981 Derek returned to Christchurch to gain specialist medicine and pathology qualifications as a haematologist (FRACP, FRCPA) setting up a research-focussed Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit. In 1998 he was appointed the inaugural Professor/Director of the Mater Medical Research Institute in Brisbane where he served for a decade before being recruited in 2000 to the ANZAC Research Institute and the University of Sydney as Professor of Transplantation and Immunotherapy and NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow. In Sydney, at the ANZAC Research Institute he established the Dendritic Cell Research group which flourished under his inspiring and energetic leadership propelling it to become the focal point of a wide network of collaborating scientists at Concord, Westmead and RPA Hospitals supporting over 25 senior basic and clinical scientists, postdoctoral Fellows and students. Over his career Derek made many important discoveries and “firsts” as well as winning awards and honours in the course of training numerous clinician scientists as well as basic scientists, being equally at home in both domains. In recent years, he chaired the Ramaciotti Scientific Advisory Committee. Like all contemporary medical researchers he suffered regular mixed success in the peer-review grant system but the thought of giving up or changing direction never crossed his mind. Derek was also very active in commercialising his discoveries taking out key patents and establishing, in 2013, a spin-off company Dendrocyte BioTech which works towards developing new dendritic cell-based immune therapies.

Derek Hart lived and worked by his own high standards with a seemingly inexhaustible drive for scientific achievement and excellence. His legendary work habits derived crucial support from his resilient wife and scientific partner Georgina and his two cherished children Olivia and James. With characteristic courage and tenacity, Derek faced his final illness for over a year without flinching or self-pity. Instead, he redoubled his efforts in science and commercialisation including overseas travels to meet colleagues, investors and biotech companies as well as the careful installation of succession plans to secure his legacy of novel immune therapies. That legacy will be continued not just by the network centred on his Dendritic Research Group but also by the legion of scientists he trained in Christchurch, Brisbane and Sydney now spread worldwide. The world of medical research is a better place for Derek’s unequivocally committed life. He and his indomitable drive will be missed beyond measure.

Professor David Handelsman
ANZAC Research Institute

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Dr Andrew Burgess Microscopy and Cytometry Manager

Targetting genes with the potential to cause breast cancer

November 21, 2017
Dr Andrew Burgess Microscopy and Cytometry Manager

Dr Andrew Burgess, an experienced cell biologist who is the Institute’s new Microscopy and Cytometry Manager, has been awarded a grant of $398,049 over three years by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to further his research into the genetic background of breast cancers.

A primary driving force behind the initiation and ongoing development of breast cancer is the activation of oncogenes, genes with the potential to cause cancer. Dr Burgess explains that oncogenes act like a car accelerator, driving excessive growth and spreading of the cancer cells throughout the body. Consequently, identifying new oncogenes and determining their functions is essential for understanding how breast cancers grow and spread.

“We recently identified a novel oncogene called MASTL that is amplified and overexpressing up to 45% triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC). Importantly, increased MASTL correlates with higher grade, unstable tumours and poor patient survival. Our preliminary data shows that MASTL is able to drive normal breast cells to grow and spread abnormally.

“Conversely, removal of MASTL from TNBC cells reverses the abnormal growth and spreading. Initial analysis of the underlying mechanisms suggests that MASTL rewires key signalling pathways in breast cells and is essential for regulating how cells duplicate their DNA. We hypothesise that MASTL is an ideal candidate to develop inhibitors, as blocking MASTL would prevent breast cancer growth and spreading, and enhance response to current chemotherapies, leading to improved patient survival.

“The purpose of this project is to better understand the mechanisms by which MASTL drives breast cancer, confirm that targeting MASTL can successfully block breast cancer in mice models, and to establish the tools necessary to develop specific inhibitors of MASTL that could be used to treat breast cancer.”

Dr Burgess expects this project will primarily benefit patients with TNBC, especially metastatic disease. These patients are normally unable to undergo curative surgery, are unresponsive to hormone therapy, and therefore chemotherapy is the only treatment option. Unfortunately, the majority (~80%) of patient tumours do not respond to current chemotherapy treatments, and very few new treatments have been developed. Consequently, metastatic TNBC has some of the lowest overall survival rates for breast cancer and these have not improved in the past 20 years.

“There is a significant need to identify new targets for TNBC in order to improve these worst-case patients. We believe that MASTL represents a promising new target that could be used to improve the outcomes for TNBC patients.”

In 2017 it was estimated that almost 18,000 Australians (including about 150 men) would have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and at least 3000 deaths would be recorded.

Dr Burgess joined the ANZAC Research Institute in 2017, after five years at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre within the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. His career began in 1998 as an honours student at the Queensland Institute if Medical Research, and after graduating with 1st class honours, he studied for a PhD at the University of Queensland. In 2004 he was awarded a prestigious NHMRC C J Martin fellowship, which took him to the French National Research Centre in Montpellier. Two additional French fellowships allowed him to remain in France for seven years, continuing to explore the basic mechanism of how cells control the division process. In 2012 Dr Burgess received a five-year Fellowship from the Cancer Institute NSW which led to his return to Sydney.

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Stem cell technology

Advances welcomed in stem cell technology

November 12, 2017
Stem cell technology

AnthonyCutrupi, a researcher completing his PhD at the ANZAC Research Institute, has returned from six months at the University of Miami, bringing back to theConcord campus specialised skills in growing and maintaining live nerve cells. The technique will be especially valuable for the Neurobiology team investigating Charcot Marie-Tooth and associated diseases.

During his stay in Miami, Anthony studied under Assistant Professor Mario Saporta and Dr Stephan Züchner, a research collaborator with the ANZAC Institute’s Associate Professor Marina Kennerson.

“The purpose was to learn how to maintain and use the cell lines called induced pluripotent stem cell lines – that is, they are stem cells from which nerves can develop – so we can use them in researching neurological disease,” says Anthony.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)

“You can’t get spinal cord tissue from living humans so the only way to do that is to have some form of stem cell technology. We can take skin cells from affected individuals and using exciting new discoveries (awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine) we can now turn those skin cells into stem cells, then turn the stem cells into neuronal cell type of interest – in our case motor neurons.”

“It’s a really exciting prospect for us here because we have families without mutations in known genes. These families are good candidates in which we can now use these stem cell-derived motor neurons to help us better understand the genetic changes occurring in the nerves of patients with CMT and similar diseases.”

Work is under way to establish the stem cell lines at the ANZAC laboratory and to train other staff to grow and maintain them, giving researchers a powerful new tool as they seek therapies for neurological diseases.

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ANZAC 14th Annual Symposium

ANZAC Research Institute 14th Annual Symposium

July 27, 2015

The ANZAC Research Institute is holding it’s 14th Annual Symposium in conjunction with Macrogen, Bioline and the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association of Australia. The topic of the symposium will be “Neuromics, Genomics and Neurology: Approaches to Translation”, with Professor Mary Reilly (University College London) as the Keynote Speaker. The symposium will be held at the ANZAC Research Institute, Gate 3, Hospital Rd, Concord. With lectures being held in the Concord Medical Education Centre at the adjoining Concord Hospital.

For further information contact Julie Taranto (02) 9767 9191 or
Registration fee $30.

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