Winner of FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence 2017

Winner of 2017 FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence: Professor Jamie Rossjohn (Australia)

Prof. Jamie Rossjohn, FAA FLSW FMedSci

Jamie Rossjohn is currently an Australian Research Council (ARC) Australian Laureate Fellow (2017-2021). He was previously a National Health and Medical Research Council Australia Fellow (2011-2016) and ARC Federation Fellow (2007-11). He is the Head of the Infection and Immunity Program of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University and Professor of Structural Immunology at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University.

Prof. Rossjohn travelled over the border from Wales to England to undertake his undergraduate degree and PhD at Bath University. During his PhD, Prof. Rossjohn trained in X-ray crystallography, where under the supervision of Profs Garry Taylor, Michael Danson and David Hough, he determined the crystal structure of glucose dehydrogenase. Subsequently, Rossjohn was awarded a Royal Society Fellowship (1995) to work at St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVIMR), Melbourne, in the laboratory of Prof. Michael Parker.  The environment of the institute, under the leadership of Prof. T.J. Martin and Prof. B.E. Kemp, provided an ideal opportunity for him to pursue his initial research investigations in Australia, which centered on the structural basis of the pore-forming bacterial toxin, perfringolysin O.

In 2002, following the award of the Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship, Prof. Rossjohn relocated to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University to design and establish the Protein Crystallography Unit under the mentorship of Prof. Christina Mitchell.  Subsequently, this Unit has expanded to encompass over 150 researchers, and greater than fifteen independent laboratory heads. As part of these developments, together with his colleague Prof. James McCluskey at the University of Melbourne, Prof. Rossjohn in 2002 launched the Monash-Melbourne Structural Immunology program. This collaboration was aimed at providing fundamental insight into the molecular bases of immune receptor mediated recognition events that are central to health and disease.

The main focus of Rossjohn’s laboratory has been on defining the key molecular interactions underlying receptor recognition events that are the primary determinants of innate and adaptive immunity, both from the aspect of protective immune control and with regard to the development of deleterious autoreactivity. Here, Rossjohn has provided profound insight into T-cell biology, specifically defining the basis of key immune recognition events by T-cells.  Such findings were made possible with close collaborations with leaders in the field, including James McCluskey, Dale Godfrey, Scott Burrows, Andrew Brooks, Anthony Purcell, Stephen Turner, Katherine Kedzierska, David Price, Nicole La Gruta, Branch Moody, Richard Berry, Hugh Reid, Jerome Le Nours, Julian Vivian and Stephanie Gras.

Rossjohn has used structural biology to explain pre-T-cell receptor (TCR) self-association in T-cell development, and how the TCR recognises Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) molecules in the context of viral immunity and aberrant T-cell reactivity. He has unearthed structural mechanisms of HLA polymorphism impacting on drug and food hypersensitivities, as well as Natural Killer cell receptor recognition. He has pioneered our molecular understanding of lipid-based immunity by T-cells, revealing that it can differ fundamentally from peptide-mediated adaptive immunity. Recently he has provided a structural basis of how vitamin B metabolites can be presented and recognised by the immune system, thereby revealing an entirely new class of antigen in immunity.

Presently, Rossjohn has published more than340 papers including in generalist journals: Nature (x9), Cell (x5), Science (x3), and PNAS (x25).  Further, he has published in top-tier journals in the field, including Nature Immunology (x31), Immunity (x18), and Journal of Experimental Medicine (x18). Simultaneously, he has mentored numerous researchers towards obtaining higher degrees and nationally and internationally competitive fellowships.  Collectively, Prof. Rossjohn’s research on the immune system, how the body reacts to infection and what happens when the immune system fails has led to a sustained advancement of knowledge in the field of structural immunology.

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