Associate Professor Marcel Nold has been named the inaugural winner of the $50,000 Fielding Innovation Award for his work on cytokines, their signalling and role in suppressing inflammation.
An international study led by Assoc Prof Nold and Dr Claudia Nold, from the Hudson Institute’s Ritchie Centre, discovered the mechanisms by which interleukin 37 (IL-37), a cytokine of the IL-1 family, acts to regulate immune responses and to control inflammation in the body.
The team is now exploring how it can translate the powerful functions of this small protein into new drugs to control or unleash the immune system’s responses.
Once more necessary testing has been done, the team envisages this research program will raise the interest of pharmaceutical companies.
“Now that we’ve discovered the mechanisms of IL-37 in controlling inflammation, we are looking into how to make that research medically useful,” Dr Nold said.
“The Fielding Innovation Award will greatly help us to get the extensive amount of work done that our laboratory needs to accomplish over the next 12 months and beyond in order to take our findings through to a commercial stage,” Dr Nold said.
Now, Assoc Prof Nold’s team will begin experiments to test modulators of the protein’s function, thus accelerating the research and strengthening the team’s position.
The Innovation Award was established by Melbourne businessman and philanthropist Peter Fielding in 2014, as part of a $1 million donation to boost the Institute’s commercial activity to ensure Hudson research has stable funding from the private sector, especially while a record-low number of research projects are funded by the government. The annual award supports the Hudson Institute scientist who is producing major advancements in the commercialisation of their research.
“I want to see innovative research move from the lab into patient treatment. The Nolds’ research is harnessing this potential,” Mr Fielding said.
In February, a study published in Nature Immunology by Assoc Prof Nold’s team deciphered how the body uses IL-37 as a molecular signal to regulate and control inflammation.
“Inflammation helps to protect us from the harmful effects of bacteria, viruses and cancer,” Assoc Prof Nold explained.
“However, inflammation is a double-edged sword: in many diseases, such as stroke, heart attacks and auto-immune diseases like Crohn’s Disease and lupus, the immune system’s responses are too strong, and can wreak great havoc if not sufficiently contained.
“Rampant, uncontrolled inflammation leads to tissue damage, which in the unfortunately not uncommon severe cases can result in organ failure and death.”
Assoc Prof Nold, his wife and their team showed how IL-37 binds to a very specific set of receptors on target cells, instructing those cells to execute a cascade of events. This chain of events subdues some of the molecular pathways the body uses to mount its inflammatory responses.
“IL-37 has been shown to override the body’s destructive responses to injury and disease, and our experiments will further probe how we can block or mimic its function,” Assoc Prof Nold said.
“We hope this discovery could be harnessed to supress inflammation in all different kinds of scenarios, from auto-immune diseases to the common cold, and to unleash the immune system’s own desired and targeted attacks on various cancers.”
Hudson Institute Director Professor Bryan Williams says Assoc Prof Nold is an extremely worthy recipient of the inaugural Fielding Innovation Award.
“Assoc Prof Nold exemplifies the Institute’s vision for translation and collaboration. Not only is he a clinician-scientist, but he has close connections to all three MHTP partners, Hudson, Monash Health and Monash University,” said Prof Williams.
“I am very pleased we have been able to support our own high-calibre researchers in this way, thanks to the generous support of the Fielding Foundation.”
Hudson Institute communications
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