Dr Danika Hill, an Early Career fellow who just completed a two-year portion of her fellowship in the Immunology research programme at the Institute, is one of the two winners of this year’s Michelson Prize.
The Michelson Prizes are annual scientific awards of $150,000 (approximately £121,000) made by the Human Vaccines Project to young investigators who are applying disruptive concepts and inventive processes to advance human immunology, vaccine discovery, and immunotherapy research across major global diseases.
Speaking about the award, Dr Hill said: “The Michelson Prize comes at a critical time in my career, and will enable me to gain more independence as a researcher. It will support me to continue to study a type of immune cell that is critical for generating long-lived immunity, the T follicular helper cells, but in much greater detail.”
For the past two years an Early Career Fellowship funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has supported Dr Hill’s work with Dr Michelle Linterman to understand antibody production in humans. During this time, Dr Hill has worked with international partners to identify the factors underpinning a productive immune response to vaccines in children in sub-Saharan Africa for effective protection against disease and contributed to work exploring how to boost the immune system’s response to vaccination in older people.
The Michelson award will fund a project at Monash University, Australia, where Dr Hill will complete her Fellowship with Professor David Tarlinton in the Department of Immunology & Pathology, Monash University. The funding provided by the Prize will enable Dr Hill to research Group A Streptococcus infection, which is amongst the top ten global causes of death related to infection, and for which there still is no vaccine. By using studying the molecular detail of hundreds of thousands of T follicular helper cells, her research will aim to develop a novel approach to vaccines design by exploiting similarities in these cell’s receptors to make an effective vaccine.
Dr Hill continued: “Vaccines have tremendous power to improve health throughout our lives. But there are a range of infections for which we still need effective vaccines, meaning that there are millions of lives that could potentially be saved every year if we had more vaccines. I hope that by better understanding how the different parts of the immune system work together we can learn how to better harness its power through vaccines to improve health outcomes for everyone in the world.”
Dr Martin Turner, Head of the Immunology programme at the Institute, said: “It’s delightful to see Danika’s excellent work recognised by the Human Vaccines Project and the award of the Michelson Prize. Danika’s work is innovative and I have no doubt that her contribution will lead to benefits through the better understanding of how our bodies respond to disease and how we can make vaccines more effective.”
Both award winners, Dr Hill and Dr Michael Birnbaum, an assistant professor at MIT, will receive their awards in an open webinar on 13th August, 2020, at 2pm UK time / 9 am EDT. Both winners will present short overviews of their Michelson Prize research proposal followed by a presentation by Professor Dr. Dan Barouch on the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Human Vaccines Project's Global COVID Lab Meeting series.
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An illustration of immune cells interacting to generate an immune response.
Human Vaccines Project press release, 3rd August 2020 Michelson Prizes support groundbreaking research by young scientists
News, 26 March 2020 How to boost immune response to vaccines in older people
News, 5 February 2020 Charting immune system development in sub-Saharan African children
News, 29 January 2018 International research to improve vaccination and transplant success
About the Babraham Institute
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation, immunology and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through Institute Strategic Programme Grants and an Institute Core Capability Grant, and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.
04 August 2020