Joanna Groom, PhD

Dr Groom’s research is focused on how immune cell location and interactions control immune responses. This interest was piqued during her PhD at the Garvan Institute that investigated cellular signalling critical to lupus autoimmunity. Her research revealed a novel mechanism of autoantibody production, which was pivotal in licensing the BAFF blocking antibody, Belimumab, for lupus treatment. During her postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, Dr Groom found how chemokine regulation was not only critical for T cell positioning but also unintuitively for T cell priming. Dr Groom is now a Laboratory Head in the Immunology Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. She uses advanced in vivo and 3D imaging platforms and molecular analysis to dissect the T cell interactions that independently balance fate decisions between T cell effector function and memory formation. Her goal is to identify context-dependent strategies to harness this T cell differentiation axis; either to stimulate potent T cell effector function for the elimination of chronic infection and cancer, or to amplify the formation and longevity of cellular memory to prevent current and emerging infectious diseases.


T cell activation and differentiation

Within secondary lymphoid organs, naïve T cells dynamically interact with distinct conventional dendritic cell subsets to mediate fate decisions.These interactions ultimately determine the success of T cell responses; whether pathogens or cancer cells are eliminated by effector cells, and if immunological memory is generated for long-lasting protection. This lecture will cover professional antigen presentation and the context-specific signals that lead to the differentiation of CD8+ T cell effector and memory responses and CD4+ T helper differentiation. In addition, we will discuss the latest research indicating that the T cell differentiation axis is disrupted in severe SARS-CoV-2 infection.