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Autoimmune diseases

Diseases that occur when the body’s immune system is overactive and attacks healthy cells

Autoimmune diseases occur when rare cells in our immune system evade normal checkpoints and attack healthy parts of our body, instead of fighting infectious invaders. There are more than 100 autoimmune diseases, spanning all age groups in the community and affecting around 10% of the population collectively.

Using pioneering genomic technologies, Garvan researchers have identified that ‘rogue clones’ –  mutations of cells in the immune system – are the root cause of a growing number of autoimmune diseases. The same mutations also drive the rogue clones responsible for common blood cancers, such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Using this groundbreaking research, we can now investigate the vulnerabilities of these rogue clones to find new, targeted therapies that can cure disease by eliminating its root cause. 

Autoimmune diseases we research

Guillain-Barré syndrome

An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves connecting the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.


A chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy parts of the body.

Multiple sclerosis

A chronic neurological disease that occurs when the immune system damages the tissue around nerves.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Autoimmune condition in which immune cells begin to attack the synovial membrane lining the joints; leading to unwanted inflammation and damage.

Sjögren's syndrome

An autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks glands that produce saliva, tears and sweat.

Other autoimmune diseases we research

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia 
  • Autoimmune vitiligo 
  • Bullous pemphigoid
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy   
  • Coeliac disease         
  • CREST syndrome (limited scleroderma)       
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Dermatomyositis      
  • Essential mixed cryoglobulinemia    
  • Evans syndrome       
  • GBM disease (Goodpasture’s syndrome)
  • Giant cell arteritis     
  • Graves’ disease         
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome       
  • Infective endocarditis associated vasculitis
  • Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune hypothyroidism)          
  • Henoch-Schönlein purpura   
  • IgA nephropathy       
  • IgG4 related disease
  • Immune thrombocytopenia
  • Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus)
  • Membranous nephropathy  
  • Microscopic polyangiitis
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Neuromyelitis optica (Devic’s disease)
  • Pemphigus vulgaris
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Polymyositis
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis)
  • Sjögren's syndrome
  • Susac’s syndrome
  • Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis 
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis