Frank Fenner Prize 2019—Associate Professor Laura Mackay

Our immune system is vital in helping our bodies fight disease. “There’ve been huge discoveries over the past few years that have shown that you can actually use a patient’s own immune system to fight their own cancer. And so, what we’ve been working on is how can we generate the best immune responses against infection and cancer.” Associate Professor Laura Mackay’s work focuses on T cells, a subtype of white blood cell. “These are immune cells that are able to directly recognise infected cells or tumours and they’re also capable of directly killing these cells. And, we’re interested in learning about what are the molecular mechanisms that control these T cells, how can we get more of them, how can we make them fight more effectively.” Associate Professor Mackay’s goal is to develop targeted new treatments. “What we hope to find is new ways in which we can specifically target these cells, so that we can make new cancer vaccines or new vaccines against various pathogens that can specifically incorporate these T cells into new therapies.” Although she has a passion for science, as a child she wanted to be an artist. “I wanted to do something super creative and that’s not really what I thought science was, but turns out I was completely wrong because science is definitely the most creative, innovative career that you can do.”

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