Burnet IMF on the case of autoimmune diseases

First published: 17/10/2013

Updated at: 06/12/2013 at 10:09 am

As well as the outstanding forays made into developing HIV and hepatitis C vaccines, the Burnet Institute is also working with both local and international biotech companies to make and test new immunotherapies for autoimmune diseases.

“Autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and coeliac disease,

may benefit from immunotherapies in development, “  IMF Director, Dr Rosemary Ffrench said.
“This is a whole new area of medicine that will explode in the next 10 years.”

“A great example of this is the use of  TNF Alpha inhibitors to target cytokines present at the inflammation stage. The TNF inhibitor targets cell receptors or the ligand that binds to the receptor to block the cytokine molecule to turn off inflammation activation. These new biological immunotherapies have been incredibly successful in the past few years in treating diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. And there is a whole range of new immunotherapies, specifically targeting other immune system markers about to come into trials.”

“We have the capability within the Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct (AMREP) to collaborate with clinical research organisations, such as Nucleus Network, in early phase trials of these new therapies.

“Biotech companies make the antibody therapy, our hospital pharmacies make up the drug and through clinical trials we can administer it to volunteer subjects with particular autoimmune diseases.”

“Our validated immunoassays that measure biomarkers of immunity can be customised for monitoring the immune response to the therapy. While we have an extensive number of validated assays, our new assay system using flow cytometry is excellent for clinical trial use,as it reduces subjectivity and increases throughput.”

The ImmunoMonitoring Facility at the Burnet Institute has NATA (R&D) accreditation ISO/IEC 17025 and follows strict quality management standards, including standard operating procedures, monitoring temperatures, documenting batches and lot numbers, and using optimised and validated protocols. The data generated is accredited to meet US FDA & EU international standards.

The facility operates both as a core facility for Burnet Institute vaccine and therapy projects and as a fee-for-service for collaborations and external contract research projects. Dr Ffrench is an immunologist who has more than 25 years of experience in studying viral immunity in human cohort studies and in vaccine development and testing.

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