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Research into the role played by vitamin B2 in alerting the immune system to foreign bacteria has earned former Burnet Institute board member Professor James McCluskey, the 2015 Glaxo Smith Klein (GSK) Award for Research Excellence.
The award was created to acknowledge outstanding achievements in medical research and facilitate career development with potential importance to human health and Australian research.
Professor McCluskey, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at The University of Melbourne, partnered with Professor Jamie Rossjohn of Monash University on the award-winning project inspired by a mutual interest in the immune system.
Professors McCluskey and Rossjohn have been studying a group of lymphocytes called Mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, found in the gut, lungs and the liver.
Nobody knows what they do and what it is they recognise in bacteria. These cells are quite prominent and have receptors on their membrane that are the same in all humans.
One of their key recent discoveries has been to show that MAIT cells recognise metabolites, or by-products arising from the bacterial production of vitamin B2 or riboflavin.
This work is part of a larger piece of work about what the immune system recognises in general.
Professor McCluskey was a Burnet board member from 1998 to 2011.