The immune system has involvement in almost every facet of health and disease; inflammation contributes to heart disease and diabetes, cancers have to evade immune surveillance, and immune dysfunction lies at the heart of autoimmunity and allergy that are increasingly prevalent in western society. Infectious disease continues to confront human health and wellbeing on a global scale. Only an improved understanding of the mechanisms by which microorganisms cause disease will result in the development of diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative strategies to combat this threat.

Immunology and Infectious Diseases research at UQ produces high quality fundamental science and translational outcomes that contribute to both the Australian health system and worldwide health challenges. UQ boasts leading researchers including two Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science and two Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. UQ’s exceptional quality was confirmed by the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise in which Immunology and Medical Microbiology research both rated at the highest level, well above world standard.

Success in translation is exemplified by Gardasil, the human papilloma virus vaccine that is now used globally in the fight against cervical cancer with more than 97 million doses distributed in 120 countries at last count. The work has resulted in numerous accolades including 2006 Australian of the Year to Professor Ian Frazer, the Florey Medal, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Fellow of the Royal Society, Ramaciotti and AMA gold medals, Honda Prize (Japan) and the William Coley Medal (USA). The Nanopatch is another example of research translation into patient outcomes, promising to shift vaccination into a needle-free era. Invented by Professor Mark Kendall and his team, the Nanopatch has received numerous awards including a Eureka Prize, Rolex Laureate and a $15 million venture capital investment to co-found Vaxxas Pty Ltd to further develop this product.

In addition, UQ’s world-leading expertise in autoimmune disease pathogenesis, including genetics and immune tolerance, has led to major breakthroughs, including the development of a revolutionary antigen-specific immunotherapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), in partnership with Janssen.

UQ has a wide network of national and international immunology and infectious disease research partners, most notably with the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), a partner in the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre. The $354 million Translational Research Institute (TRI) brings together immunology researchers from UQ, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Mater Research Institute-UQ (MRI-UQ) and Queensland Health into a facility – for the first time in Australia – that allows biopharmaecuticals and treatments to be discovered, produced, clinically tested and manufactured in one location. Key international partners include Cambridge University, Sanger Centre, University of California San Diego, Institute Pasteur, and the Harvard Medical School.

Current Immunology and Infectious Diseases research at UQ brings together clinicians and the infrastructure involved in human clinical trials, builds capacity to develop new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and builds on expertise in basic research on a wide range of microbial pathogens. This expertise supports translational outcomes, including new products to diagnose, treat and prevent human infectious diseases.

UQ has built impressive infrastructure to support biomedical research in the last 10 years: this includes facilities for GMP manufacture, human trials, genomics, PC3 facilities for handling infectious agents, cell imaging, therapeutic development and vaccine development.

Immunology and Infectious Diseases research occurs at:

  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Faculty of Science
  • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • UQ Diamantina Institute
  • Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • UQ Centre for Clinical Research
  • Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute
  • Translational Research Institute

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Medical Microbiology

Immunology and Infectious Diseases in brief

  • More than 60 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including Clinical Sciences and Experimental Medicine
  • More than 760 publications since 2008
  • More than $83 million in research funding since 2008
  • Immunology and Medical Microbiology research both rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise

Highlights of UQ Immunology and Infectious Diseases

The Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre (AID): utilising leading technologies to identify, understand and prevent infectious disease 

AID is a multidisciplinary centre linking research groups at UQ and QIMR. AID brings together 99 research group leaders including 16 Australian Research Council (ARC) and 31 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fellows. It includes researchers within the UQ Faculties of Science and of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, UQ Centre for Clinical Research, Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and UQ Diamantina Institute together with the Infectious Diseases Programme at QIMR. This research integration delivers significant collaborative gain for UQ and QIMR and for the Australian health research sector. AID combines strong basic and clinical research in infectious diseases with both global and local imperatives. 

The Translational Research Institute (TRI): translating the findings of basic biomedical research into better patient outcomes 

TRI is a joint venture between The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, MRI-UQ and the Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Centres for Health Research, which includes researchers from UQ’s School of Medicine. It has been made possible through $354 million in funding provided by the Australian and Queensland Governments, The Atlantic Philanthropies, UQ and QUT. The TRI allows biopharmaceuticals and treatments to be discovered, produced, clinically tested and manufactured in one location.

The Institute is the outcome of the collective vision of 2006 Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer and Professor Derek Hart, former Director of Mater Medical Research Institute, together with clinicians and scientists from the Diamantina Health Partners, an integrated health sciences centre. 

The Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN): bringing together the skills of world-class researchers in the areas of bioengineering and nanotechnology 

AIBN is an integrated multi-disciplinary research institute: it is home to 19 research groups working at the interface of the biological, chemical and physical science to alleviate current problems in human health and environmental issues. AIBN’s research efforts focus on developing new products, processes and devices for improving human health and quality of life. AIBN promotes and develops the growth of innovative industries, and has played a lead role in the development of the Nanopatch for needle-free vaccine delivery. 

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB): advancing quality of life through personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology 

IMB aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology. IMB researchers investigate the basis of growth and development at the genetic, molecular, cellular and organ levels. By understanding the development process, and aspects that go awry in complex diseases, IMB aims to develop pharmaceutical and cellular therapies, technologies and diagnostics to prevent or treat such diseases. IMB is a highly collaborative environment, where over 400 research staff and students from different fields combine to contribute to strategic research programs. This is underpinned by IMB’s facilities, many of which are among the best in the country and even the world. IMB is also characterised by a strong commitment to commercialisation through its partnership with Uniquest Pty Ltd.