August 30, 2015

A killer award for killer T cells

Dan Pellicci, an Associate Investigator at the Imaging CoE, has received a commendation from Victoria’s Premier for his innovative research on immunity.

In a landmark achievement, Dr Daniel Pellicci was presented with the Victorian Premier’s Award for Health & Medical Research on Thursday 13 August. As an annual award that celebrates excellence in the early careers of researchers, and outstanding contributions to Victoria’s health research sector, it recognised his work on how Natural Killer T (NKT) cells govern immune response in a number of conditions.

Pellicci’s research has made inroads into understanding the role of NKT cells in the human body, potentially laying the groundwork for personalised therapeutics that treat allergens, infections and tumours. “Specifically, my work examines how NKT cells interact with foreign lipid molecules expressed by microbes such as bacteria, and self-lipid molecules expressed by abnormal cells such as cancerous cells,” he explains.

In addition to receiving this prestigious award, Pellicci’s research – which has been published in top journals including Nature Immunology and Immunity – has met with acclaim from other sources. He is the recipient of the Qiagen PhD Award and several travel scholarships.

Currently a Research Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne (as well as an Associate Investigator at the Imaging CoE), Pellicci is planning to continue his research into immunity at the cellular level, in the hope that it will lead to breakthroughs in medical treatments.

For now, though, Pellicci is celebrating his latest big achievement: receipt of the Premier’s commendation. “It’s an absolute honour,” he says. “And I would especially like to thank those who have supported my research, including Professors Dale Godfrey and James McCluskey (University of Melbourne) and Jamie Rossjohn (Monash University).”