Professors Jamie Rossjohn & James McCluskey

2016 Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation

Professors Jamie Rossjohn and James McCluskey have been awarded the 2016 Victoria Prize jointly for their substantial and sustained contributions to our understanding of the human immune system. Their research has both fundamental and clinical importance in understanding infection and immunity.
During their 15 year collaboration, Professor Rossjohn from Monash University and Professor McCluskey from The University of Melbourne, have co-published over 125 research papers, translated their research for improved health outcomes and mentored a large number of next generation researchers.

Professors Rossjohn and McCluskey have made a number of key discoveries including uncovering how genetic variability between different individuals affects their immune responses to viruses and other microbes. Their groundbreaking discovery around pre-T-cell antigen receptors provides an enhanced understanding of how T cells develop in the thymus. They have provided a detailed molecular understanding of how T-cells recognise foreign tissues during transplant rejection, drug hypersensitivities and the wheat allergy that causes celiac disease. Their research has underpinned personalised genetic testing which has direct clinical significance across a range of medical conditions including avoidance of life threatening drug allergy and better matching of transplant donors and recipients.

The pair have provided novel insights into T-cell biology, specifically defining the basis of key immune recognition events by T-cells that sense peptide, lipid and other foreign molecules that trigger immunity. Their recent finding that a subset of T-cells respond to vitamin B-based precursors has shifted our understanding of the immune system by revealing an entirely new class of microbial targets in immunity.

This groundbreaking work may lead to new diagnostics and potential therapeutics to combat disorders of the bowel and other mucosal-based disease.

Both are Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science and have received numerous prizes, awards and international invitations for their long list of achievements, including the 2011 Roche Organ Transplantation Research Foundation Award, the 2013 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research jointly with Lars Kjer-Nielsen and the 2015 GSK Award for Research Excellence.