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The immune system is vital for maintaining good health. However, much remains to be learnt about how it develops normally, how it is perturbed in disease and how it is subverted during infection. One key facet of the immune system are the various cytokines and their receptors that regulate it. Professor Alister Ward leads a research team at Deakin University’s new Medical School investigating the genes involved in the development of the immune system, including cytokine receptor signalling components, with the aim of understanding their function, evolution, and role in disease. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, combining bioinformatics, molecular biology and functional genomics approaches in the zebrafish model, the group has recently made some ground-breaking discoveries regarding the function of a clinically-relevant protein, called “GCSFR”, as well as regarding the origins of adaptive immunity.
Professor Ward has made a substantial research contribution in the area of cytokine receptor signalling, immunity, infectious diseases and developmental biology. He has published over 90 papers that have consistently been in high impact journals such as Journal of Experimental Medicine and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or in leading discipline-specific journals, including Blood, Leukemia, Journal of Immunology, and Journal of Biological Chemistry. Highlighting their consistent individual impact, 36 of these publications have at least 20 citations, and 12 of these have more than 50 citations, with total citations exceeding 1900, and an H-index of 25. Professor Ward has also been consistently successful at obtaining competitive funding totalling in excess of $3.5 million, with the majority from National Competitive Grant Schemes, including receipt of prestigious fellowships from ASBMB, EMBO and the Viertel Foundation. Professor Ward has an international profile, including regularly offers to write reviews, as well as a strong presence in the local research community, with a particularly interest in research training and promotion through his activities with the Australian Society for Medical Research. He was appointed as Director of Pre-Clinical Studies and Foundation Professor in the Deakin Medical School in 2007, and subsequently Associate Head of School (Research) and Co-Director of the Molecular & Medical Research Strategic Research Centre.