04 May 2017
Prof Sprent is one of the most eminent immunologists of his generation. He is recognised in particular for his contributions to our understanding of T cells – blood cells that play a central role in defending the body against disease. He has made many seminal contributions across diverse aspects of T-cell biology, which have advanced our understanding of how the immune system is activated and how it avoids attacking ‘self’. He is now turning his attention to cancer immunotherapy, a fast-growing field that explores how the immune system can work to combat tumours.
Among other honours, Prof Sprent is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and of the Royal Society (UK), a past President of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), the 2015 recipient of the AAI Lifetime Achievement Award, and an honorary member of the British Society for Immunology. He was previously a recipient of a Burnet Award by the NHMRC (one of only three awarded), and is currently an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow.
Prof Stuart Tangye, Head of Garvan’s Immunology Division, says, “Jon really is a remarkable scientist. He has always pursued fundamental questions about basic aspects of how the immune system works. Many of these findings have had major impact on immunological dogma, but more importantly they have been felt clinically, as they have revealed critical aspects of how disease can develop when T cell development or function goes awry.
“Jon was ahead of the curve with cancer immunotherapy – and hopefully his work in this area will also be translated for improved patient outcomes. We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Jon’s stature at Garvan and in the Immunology Division. He is a living legend of immunology.”
Prof Sprent was born in England and grew up in Brisbane. He graduated in medicine from The University of Queensland, and then went on to do a PhD in the lab of pre-eminent immunologist Professor Jacques Miller at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. After post-doctoral fellowships in Switzerland and the UK, Prof Sprent worked for 30 years in the USA, first at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and then at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. He returned to Australia in 2005, and has led the Cellular Immunity laboratory within Garvan’s Immunology Division since 2006.
According to the NAS, “Members are elected to the NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.”
Prof Sprent is one of two Australian researchers to be elected to the NAS in 2017, the other being Prof Kenneth Freeman (Australian National University). Prof Sprent’s election means that Garvan’s faculty includes two members of NAS (Prof Chris Goodnow, Garvan’s Deputy Director, is also a member).
The full list of NAS members is available here.
Read the NAS media release about the 2017 election of new members.