Autoimmune disease researcher’s work recognised

1 December 2014

Immunologist Dr Stephen Daley has been awarded the Gordon Ada Early Career Researcher Award for his research into the origin of autoimmune diseases which remain a mystery

The award is given to early career researchers at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) who have made major contributions to biomedical research.

 “It has a great honour to accept this award because I personally knew Gordon, a giant in medical research, who was at JCSMR when I arrived nine years ago,” Dr Daley said.

“It is also very special because it recognises a body of work I have put together over a few years since establishing my own research group, the T cell tolerance lab.”

The award included $1,000 and a chance for Dr Daley to share his research to people across campus at JCSMR at the 2014 Gordon Ada Oration.

T cells are a type of white blood cell that circulate around our bodies scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections. However, they also can malfunction and damage the body causing auto-immune diseases.

“What we’ve done is open a new approach to analysing events in the thymus and we pay particular attention to the stages that the T Cells pass through,” Dr Daley said.

His research group has found that a molecular marker, called Helios, identifies T cells with the potential to damage the body.

“Using this marker we’ve shown how and when these T cells are eliminated or inactivated in the thymus before they get a chance to damage other organs of the body,” Dr Daley said.

“This discovery gives new insights into how immune cells learn to do no harm and will help us understand how this process can break down in autoimmune disease.”

Dr Daley has not always worked in immunology. He grew up on a dairy farm in rural Queensland and went on to train as a veterinary surgeon.

“I got a taste for research during my undergraduate degree when I spent time in America,” Dr Daley said.

“I went on to two years of mixed veterinary practice before completing a PhD in transplantation immunology at Oxford.”

Since 2006, Dr Daley has been a Postdoctoral fellow working under the mentorship of Professor Chris Goodnow.