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Immune Biotherapies Program

Harnessing the power of the immune system to develop new biotherapies and improved vaccines.

Program Director

Over millions of years, both simple and complex organisms have independently evolved systems to defend themselves against infectious pathogens. Although they differ in many ways, the common feature of these systems is their ability to target molecular structures that are components of the foreign pathogen but not the host. In single-cell bacteria, the CRISPR system achieves this by directing DNA-cleaving activity specifically towards the 23 base sequences present only on invading viruses. In mammals, antibody proteins develop during immune responses, which can identify and eliminate foreign structures that differ by less than 1% from the host.

The ability of CRISPR and antibodies to identify rare DNA sequences and molecular structures within complex biological systems provides an incredibly powerful tool for both research and therapeutics development. Genome engineering, including modelling of human genetic disease and gene therapy for such conditions, is now a reality with the advent of CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Moreover, antibodies now dominate the development of new treatments and are being adapted to a range of sophisticated biotherapies.

The Immune Biotherapies Program brings together Garvan’s expertise in these powerful tools of CRISPR and antibody development. By exploiting the synergies within the Program, and in collaboration with Garvan’s other research programs, in particular Precision Immunology, we will work towards developing the next generation of gene therapies, novel antibody treatments and vaccines.