Immune detective wins national medical research award

13 Jul 2017

An IMB researcher working to understand how our body fights back against viruses has received a national medical research award.

Dr Larisa Labzin won the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Frank Fenner Award for being the top-ranked researcher awarded an early-career NHMRC fellowship in 2016.

“Infectious diseases kill more people worldwide each year than cancer, however many current vaccines and therapeutics are only partially effective,” Dr Labzin said.

“The challenge of combating infectious diseases is becoming ever more difficult due to the increasing movement of people around the globe.

“I am investigating the role of a specific protein, TRIM21, in detecting and combating disease within cells of the immune system.”

Dr Labzin’s research could lead to improved treatments for common viruses such as respiratory tract infections, and colds, and also some autoimmune diseases like lupus.

As part of her fellowship, Dr Labzin will spend two years working with Dr Leo James at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, before returning to Australia to work in Associate Professor Kate Schroder’s laboratory at IMB.

Dr Labzin completed her undergraduate degree at UQ, including honours at IMB, before undertaking a PhD at the University of Bonn in Germany.

The award is one of the NHMRC Research Excellence Awards, which were presented at a gala dinner in Canberra on July 12.

Dr Labzin’s award marks the sixth time an IMB researcher has won a Research Excellence Award, meaning they are the top-ranked applicant in the nation for an NHMRC funding scheme.

Previous awardees are:

·         2015 Dr Joseph Powell (Career Development Fellowship)

·         2015 Professor Kirill Alexandrov (Development Grant)

·         2013 Professor Rob Parton (Project)

·         2010 Professor Rob Parton (Project)

·         2007 Professors John Hancock and Rob Parton (Program Grant)

The NHMRC Frank Fenner Award is named after Professor Frank Fenner, an Australian researcher who played a key role in the eradication of smallpox and also directed the effort to reduce the country’s rabbit population using the myxoma virus.

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