Research

Holy Grail: Re-wiring the immune response to prevent asthma

Tuesday, 18 Jun 2019



Can you describe the aim of this project in 10 words?

To discover new strategies to treat allergic asthma.

What have you discovered so far in this area?

Our recent research, in an experimental model, showed that the enzyme known as enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (Ezh2) is essential for T cells to drive allergic inflammation and that targeting Ezh2 with a small molecule inhibitor can switch off the allergic immune reaction. Inhibition of Ezh2 resulted in reduced airway inflammation and significantly reduced total BAL cells, CD4+ T cells, eosinophils and B cells.

What’s the significance of the polycomb repressive complex 2 pathway over others in allergic inflammation?

The polycomb repressive complex (PRC) is essential for the function and survival of the immune T cells that are responsible for the development of allergic inflammation.

What aspect of this research interests you the most?

The translation of fundamental research findings into potential treatments for disease.

What do we know about Ezh2 inhibitors in other human disease?

A number of biotech companies have developed Ezh2 inhibitors and they are currently in a number of trials as potential treatments for number of different cancers. As such, we are proposing a repurposing of these drugs to switch off allergic immune responses.

How long before this work is likely to impact patient care?

These studies are still in their infancy and it will be a number of years until trials in patients can begin.

What’s your Holy Grail – the one thing you’d like to achieve in your research career?

I would love to see these discoveries we made in the research laboratory have an impact on patients.

What is your biggest research hurdle?

Funding is scarce at the moment but a major hurdle is the time taken to translate basic research discoveries into the clinic.

Who has inspired you in work or life?

I am inspired by individuals who take risks to follow what they truly believe. Scientists like Nobel Prize recipient Barbara McClintock are a great example.

What interests outside the lab help you create work-life balance?

Having a very young family has definitely put laboratory life into perspective.

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