Agents of Change – Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and Associate Professor Kim Jacobson-Immunity
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Agents of Change – Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and Associate Professor Kim Jacobson-Immunity


– In 2019, chronic viral
infections can still cause a large burden of disease,
so we decide to change it. (intense music) Cytomegalovirus is a virus
that is extremely common and infects about 80% of the
population by the age of 40. Most of us do not realise we’re infected because if our immune system is working, we’re dealing with the virus just fine. When our immune system is not working, then the virus starts causing an enormous degree of problems. In transplant, for example,
both in solid organs and bone marrow transplantation,
cytomegalovirus infection is really the major
infectious complication. Our studies have really
changed the way that we think about how we need to deal
with these viral infections. We were really excited when
we found that the virus presents in different strains, and if you match the antibodies to the infectious strain of virus, then you can get excellent protection. That gives us new insights
about how viruses interact with our immune systems and,
importantly, paves the way in telling us what are
the critical component of new therapies that
we need to explore it to get maximum benefit into patients. (upbeat electronic music) – HIV still infects approximately 36 million people worldwide, and of those people, 1.8
million are children, so it’s still a large
global burden of disease. Although we’ve had success
with treating HIV long-term, there are still almost one
million deaths per year, so the work that we do at Monash is that we take two major
fields and bring them together. Immune memory, how we form
immunity, and epigenetics, which is looking at the
molecular codes within cells. And we’re hoping by
linking those two pathways, we have a unique direction
that will lead us to new therapeutics. What is exciting about this
research is the potential for global impact, and we’ve recently had a really exciting result in the lab, where we’ve found that if we target one of these molecular regulators, the immune system is able to clear these chronic viral infections, which means that we can potentially target this molecular regulator with a drug. We can potentially translate this finding into treatments for patients,
ultimately saving lives.

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