Translating molecular insights in autoimmunity into effective therapy.
Autoimmunity and the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases were a major focus of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, where I started my research career. After my initial studies on immune cell culture and immune regulation, I returned to an analysis of the pathogenesis of human autoimmunity in London. Linking upregulated antigen presentation to autoimmunity led to an investigation of the role of cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in collaboration with Ravinder Maini. These experiments defined the concept of a TNF-dependent cytokine cascade driving the manifestations of RA, which led to successful clinical trials of anti-TNF monoclonal antibody in RA patients, heralding a major change in medical practice. This success was made possible by enthusiastic support from many laboratory and clinical colleagues and taught us that cytokines are important rate-limiting steps and hence good therapeutic targets. My current scientific challenge is exploring the hypothesis of whether all major medical needs can be approached via cytokine blockade.