UNSW Medicine's thematic approach to research draws on the strengths of UNSW Medicine as well as internal and external partners to achieve significant breakthroughs in crucial areas of healthcare.

Infectious Disease, Immunity and Inflammation


The UNSW Medicine Infectious Disease, Immunity and Inflammation (Triple I) Theme includes internationally prominent researchers, educators and clinicians leading in the understanding, prevention and treatment of complex infections and conditions. Our researchers make significant global contributions through involvement in broad, multidisciplinary and multinational collaborations. 

A world where human health is enriched by controlling infection, enhancing immunity and managing inflammation.

To build world-class collaborative research networks to improve diseases driven by infection, immunity and inflammation; build capacity to develop evidence-based interventions; translate research into clinical practice and policy; share knowledge to enhance clinical care.

We study every aspect of infectious diseases, from fundamental biology and pathology through epidemiological studies, economic and population health. These investigations extend to interventional clinical trials with antimicrobials, immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory agents, as well as transformational health systems research. The Theme has a regional focus involving major collaborative programs in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as a global footprint with established, collaborative clinical trial networks spanning five continents. While there have been great advances in combating blood-borne viruses such as HIV and viral hepatitis, other disease is increasing worldwide and affect people of all ages, genders and socio-economic groups.  

Our focus is on multidisciplinary team driven, outcomes-based, basic and translational research. Our researchers have a track record of producing robust, generalisable research data and overseeing its rapid and efficient translation into clinical and policy improvements that directly benefit health. 

Infectious Disease, Immunity and Inflammation aims to develop a more integrated culture to foster collaboration between partners; to allow researchers to move beyond their own disciplines and explore new ways to conduct research in interdisciplinary teams and add value across the local and global research landscape. Infectious Disease, Immunity and Inflammation works across three areas of focus:

•    Prevention and treatment of infectious disease
•    Immunity with a focus on immune dysregulation
•    Inflammation and the consequences of inflammation-associated disease

Many of our researchers are also clinicians who work in the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, South Western Sydney Local Health District, St Vincent's Hospital Sydney and Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick. Our research is conducted in renowned centres and institutes including the St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research and Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and The George Institute, and at UNSW, The Kirby Institute, the Microbiome Research Centre, the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, School of Medical Sciences, the School of Public Health and Community Medicine and St George and Sutherland Clinical School. These connections give us access to highly sophisticated equipment including whole genome sequencing (including of single cells), high-throughput chemical small molecule screening, advanced imaging, as well as clinical trials capability and access to statistical, health economic and big data support.

We also lead the Triple I Clinical Academic Group (Triple I CAG) within SPHERE, an NHMRC-accredited Advanced Health Research and Translation Centre. This alliance harnesses the power of researchers and clinicians at three Universities, two Medical Research Institutes and four major Sydney Teaching Hospitals. There is opportunity to intensify communication and relationships amongst researchers to achieve greater collaboration, research success, and more broadly promulgate the research outcomes.

Working groups are evolving within and across these areas of focus to mobilise researchers:

•    Allergy (lead by Professor Andrew Carr)
•    Autoimmunity (co-lead by Professor Anthony Kelleher and Professor Christopher Goodnow)
•    Human Papilloma Virus (co-lead by Professor Andrew Grulich and A/Professor Richard Hillman)
•    Inflammatory Bowel Disease (lead by Professor Georgina Hold)
•    Liver Disease and Cancer (co-lead by Professor Nicholas Shackel and Professor Golo Ahlenstiel)
•    Primary Immunodeficiency (CIRCA) (lead by Professor Stuart Tangye)
In addition to these areas, we have expertise in vaccinology, with a focus on vaccine effectiveness for influenza, pneumococcus, zoster, HPV and pertussis. Efforts are focused on the response and control of emerging infectious diseases, and health security, as well as responding to the neglected tropical diseases that are endemic in many of our regional communities. 

Research groups conduct basic pathophysiological studies of inflammation and immune responses, using state-of-the-art laboratory, genetic and bioinformatic techniques to understand a range of diseases including liver and gastrointestinal disease, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and other respiratory infections. New diagnoses in patients with complex, undifferentiated primary immuno-deficiencies, define their molecular/functional defects, and guide treatment through alliances of basic scientists, geneticists and clinical immunologists. We are working to identify new auto antigens and screening autoimmune patients for genetic predispositions and that may guide therapy to treat autoimmune diseases. 

A new focus for UNSW is the role of chronic inflammation in infection through investigation of gut microbiota and host bacterial interactions.

We have made substantive, internationally-recognised research contributions to the evidence base that has led to revolutions in the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV), the prevention of morbidities of chronic infections (e.g. hepatitis B (HBV), human papillomavirus (HPV), Helicobacter pylori., the diagnosis of primary immunodeficiencies, the diagnosis and treatment of antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS), as well as the treatment and prevention of childhood allergies.

We have played a key role in providing the evidence base for the adoption of international best practice, with an active role in determining national and international guidelines developed the World Health Organization and other major agencies.