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Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti

Mariapia Degli-Esposti is a NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and Professor at Monash University. Professor Degli-Esposti is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Professor Degli-Esposti received a PhD in Immunology from the University of Western Australia. In 2003 she joined the Lions Eye Institute as Head of Immunology and was Director of Research from 2009-2018. Since 2019 she is a Professor at Monash University and continues to hold an appointment at LEI.

Professor Degli-Esposti’s research focuses on understanding the regulation of complex immune responses, including those that affect the eye. Dysregulated immunity and inflammation play key roles in many eye diseases including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and uveitis. Professor Degli-Esposti’s laboratory has elucidated novel interactions between components of the immune system and how they affect the outcome of immune responses. These findings have been key to both basic and translational research aimed at developing improved therapies by harnessing the immune system.

Education/academic qualifications/roles responsibilities

  • Bachelor of Science with Honours (First Class)
  • The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia
  • PhD – awarded with special commendation for outstanding distinction, Department of Pathology The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia

Awards/Professional achievements

  • 1992 – PhD awarded with special commendation for outstanding distinction. Australia
  • 1999 – AMRAD Post-doctoral Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research. Australia
  • 2001-05 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Science, only one ever awarded in Western Australia. Australia
  • 2015 – The Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Award for sustained career excellence and distinguished achievement in research, the University of Western Australia. Australia
  • 2016 – Faculty of 1000, Member for Immunology, Innate Immunity; membership by nomination. International
  • 2017 – Cancer Researcher of the Year 2017, Cancer Council WA award for the most outstanding contribution to cancer research over the last 3 years, Cancer Council of Western Australia. Australia
  • 2018 – Elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Australia
  • 2019 – The Australian Museum UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. Australia

Grants/scholarships/funding overview

  • 2021-24 – Developing improved therapies for cytomegalovirus infections by overcoming viral strain diversity, NHMRC Ideas Grant
  • 2017-21 – Immunoregulation and immunity to viral infection, NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship

Research Activity

The Immunology research team is committed to understanding how complex immune responses are regulated in the eye and the impact of systemic inflammation on the functioning of the eye and the development of eye diseases. Their vision is to develop effective therapies by harnessing the immune system so as to maintain protective immune responses whilst curbing inflammation that may lead to impairment and/or loss of vision.

The Immunology team has developed unique models to

  1. Develop novel therapies autoimmune diseases that affect the eye (e.g. Sjogren’s Syndrome) and other dry eye diseases.
  2. Understand the effect of viral infection on the functioning of neural tissues such as the retina
  3. Investigate the role of virally-induced inflammation on the development of diseases such as macular degeneration
  4. Improve the outcome of viral infections that cause life-threatening disease, as well as ocular complications, in transplant patients.

The team’s research has made significant contributions to understanding the immunological pathways invoked in response to viral infection (published in Nature Immunology, Immunity), the pathophysiology of the resulting disease (published in Blood, Immunity), and the strategies needed to improve clinical outcomes (published in Science, Lancet, Immunity, J Exp Med).

Leading Publications

  1. Infection of dendritic cells by murine cytomegalovirus induces functional paralysis. https://doi.org/10.1038/ni724
    Accompanied by News & Views by P Lehner and G Wilkinson, Cambridge Institute of Medical Research and University of Wales College of Medicine.
  2. Interaction between conventional dendritic cells and natural killer cells is integral to the activation of effective anti-viral immunity.
    https://doi.org/10.1038/ni1244
    Recommended by F1000Prime.
  3. TRAIL+ NK cells control CD4+ T cell responses during chronic viral infection to limit autoimmunity.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.immuni.2014.09.013
    Comments in international patients’ literature e.g.
    https://www.susanbakermd.com/blog/the-link-between-sjogrens-syndrome-and-infections-what-you-need-to-know
  4. Secretion gene therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration: One year follow up of a phase 1 randomised clinical trial.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajo.2017.02.018
    Accompanied by a Commentary by R McLaren, University of Oxford and Oxford University Eye Hospital. Recommended by F1000Prime.
  5. Strain-specific antibody therapy prevents cytomegalovirus reactivation after transplantation.
    https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aat0066
    Accompanied by a Commentary from M-L Alegre, University of Chicago. 2019 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

To read more publications from this researcher, go to https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/.

Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti
Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti

Cornea, Ocular Surface & Ocular Immunology,

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