Highlights

Professor Matt Sweet uses techniques in immunology, cell biology and biochemistry to understand how the innate immune system functions in health and disease. His current research focuses on characterizing genes and pathways in macrophages that either drive inflammation or are involved in the clearance of bacterial pathogens. The ultimate aim of this research is to learn how to manipulate the innate immune system to either limit pathological inflammation or unleash its power against infection.

During his career, he has elucidated mechanisms by which bacterial CpG DNA activates macrophages, identified ST2 as a regulator of macrophage activation, characterized mechanisms by which histone deacetylase enzymes regulate inflammation and host defence pathways, defined CSF-1 as a key regulator of macrophage inflammatory responses, and characterized mechanisms by which the bacterial pathogens Salmonella and UPEC subvert innate immunity.

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Researcher biography

Matt Sweet is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, the Director of the Centre for Inflammation and Disease Research and Deputy Head of the Division of Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. He studies innate immunity, the body's danger sensing system that responds to infection, injury and dysregulated homeostasis, and the role of this system in health and disease. Matt's research team is focused on characterizing the roles of specific innate immune pattern recognition receptors and their downstream signalling pathways/gene products in inflammatory disease processes, as well as in host responses to bacterial pathogens. He has authored ~130 journal articles and book chapters, including in Science, Nature Genetics, Nature Communications (2), Journal of Experimental Medicine (2) and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2), and his career publications have accrued ~9,000 citations.

Biography

I was awarded a PhD (The University of Queensland) in 1996 for my research under the supervision of Prof David Hume into gene regulation in macrophages, immune cells with important roles in health and disease. I subsequently undertook a short postdoctoral position in the same laboratory, focusing on the activation of macrophages by pathogen products. I then embarked on a CJ Martin post-doctoral training fellowship with Prof Eddy Liew, FRS at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Returning to The University of Queensland, I had a prominent role within the Cooperative Research Centre for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases (including as UQ node head from 2007-2008) and was appointed as a Group Leader at the IMB in 2007. I was subsequently awarded an ARC Future Fellowship, and I have been an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow since 2011.

Key discoveries

  • CpG-containing DNA as an activator of innate immunity, and characterization of the receptor (TLR9) detecting this microbial component.
  • The IL-1 receptor family member ST2 as a critical regulator of innate immunity and inflammation.
  • Inflammatory and antimicrobial functions of histone deacetylase enzymes (HDACs) in macrophages.
  • Effects of the growth factor CSF-1 on inflammatory responses in macrophages.
  • Mechanisms responsible for divergence in TLR responses between human and mouse macrophages, as well as the functional consequences of such divergence.
  • Host evasion strategies used by the bacterial pathogens Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and uropathogenic E. coli.

Research training

I have supervised or co-supervised 19 completed PhD students and 18 completed honours students, as well as 9 post-doctoral researchers. Many of my former staff and students continue to have active research careers around the world (USA, UK, Europe, Australia), including as independent laboratory heads. I currently supervise 4 PhD students in my laboratory, co-supervise another 3 PhD students in other laboratories, and oversee the research activities of 3 post-doctoral researchers in my group. Current and former staff/students have received numerous fellowships and awards during their research careers (e.g. ARC DECRA, NHMRC CJ Martin fellowship, UQ post-doctoral fellowship, Smart State scholarship). I have also examined 15 PhD theses in the fields of innate immunity, inflammation and host defence.

Professional activities

I am an editorial board member of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, Immunology and Cell Biology and Frontiers in Immunology. I have served on NHMRC project grant review panels in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 (as panel chair) and 2014, as well as a member of the NHMRC RGMS user reference group committee from 2010-2012. I have acted as national representative for the Australasian Society of Immunology (ASI) Infection and Immunity special interest group from 2012 to the present. At UQ, I served as chair of an animal ethics committee from 2013-2014, and co-organized the UQ Host-Pathogen interaction network from 2007-2010 (prior to the establishment of the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre).

I have made extensive contributions to conference organization in my discipline. I co-organized the national TLROZ2009 and TLROZ2012 conferences, I organized the first ever Australasian Society for Immunology Infection and Immunity workshop (2009), and I co-organize the annual IMB Inflammation Symposium (2014 to the present). In addition, I have been a member of the organizing committee for ASI2009, the 2014 International Cytokine and Interferon Society conference, the Lorne Infection and Immunity conference (2014 to the present), and the Brisbane Immunology Group annual meeting (2008 to the present). I am currently acting as co-chair for the 2019 World Conference of Inflammation (to be held in Sydney), and chair of the program sub-committee for ASI2017 (to be held in Brisbane).