Seth Masters

veski innovation fellow

Dr Seth Masters returns from Trinity College in Dublin to join the newly formed Inflammation Division as a Laboratory Head at Melbourne’s Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

Dr Masters took up his veski innovation fellowship in early 2012.

Research project title:
Virus and host miRNA that target the innate immune system and inflammation

Research project description:
A large number of people are diagnosed with chronic inflammatory diseases, caused when their bodies fight an infection that does not exist – a ghost. Dr Seth Masters wants to understand what’s happening at a molecular level to discover a therapy that will change sufferer’s lives. The body naturally defends itself from disease and infection with inflammation by white blood cells killing foreign organisms or diseased cells to kick-start the healing process. However, surrounding tissues can be destroyed if the inflammatory response is too strong, leading to chronic inflammatory diseases.

These diseases, which include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, cancer and type-2 diabetes, are common problems for Australians, meaning understanding them has become a key focus in the inflammation field. Seth’s project will investigate an important class of regulators that limit inflammation called micro-RNAs. He has identified a micro-RNA that limits inflammation linked to several diseases including Crohns disease.

Seth also aims to identify micro-RNAs in viruses that are resistant to the immune system and target them with technologies such as “locked nucleic acids”, a newly developed technology not currently employed in the fight against viral infections. His trials against the herpes simplex and Epstein-Barr virus will be a first, not only for Victoria, but globally as well.

Key facts:

  • Returned to Victoria with his partner, Dr Lisa Mielke, who works as a postdoctoral researcher in the Molecular Immunology division at the the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
  • Seth was part of the team that discovered the potential underlying basis for Type 2 diabetes, a debilitating disease where people stop responding to insulin
  • He spent three years in Bethesda, USA at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease where he helped discover a new, rare inflammatory disease that affects young children, and a therapy that totally resolves it

“Knowing science, technology and innovation is recognised by government and financially supported is a fantastic thing. Without that impetus, people are going to drop out of science and technology, and if we don’t have that money we can’t do what we want to do, we can’t generate innovative ideas, technologies, and therapies for medical research.”

Seth Masters

Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research