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Personal profile

Biography

Dr Wael Awad is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow (2022-2024) at the Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University. Following graduation and completion of his M.Sc. at Cairo University Egypt, Dr Awad obtained a competitive international fellowship from the European Commission’s Erasmus Mundus to embark on a PhD at Lund University (Sweden), where he studied the structures and functions of glypicans membrane-anchored proteins. During his PhD, he acquired a set of skills and expertise in the research areas of protein biochemistry, cellular and structural biology. This enabled him to complete a very successful PhD with a total of five publications (four as the first author). His outstanding PhD dissertation was recognised by the international committee of the MAX-IV Synchrotron and received the "Best PhD Thesis Award 2015" (Sweden). He then pursued his scientific career as a research fellow at Monash University (November 2015), under the mentorship of the ARC Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Jamie Rossjohn FAA. In Monash, Dr Awad has brought a wealth of technical expertise to markedly advance our understanding of the molecular correlates underpinning the burgeoning field of metabolite-mediated immunity. Dr Awad has now established an international profile in the field of structural immunology as evidenced by his high impact publications (such as ScienceNature Immunology; Science Immunology, and PNAS).

Research interests

We investigate the roles of the poorly understood classes of antigens “small molecule metabolites” in T cell immunity. Here, during microbial infection of mammalian cells, MHC-1 class I related molecule “MR1” binds to and presents vitamin B precursors, derived only from the microbial biosynthesis of riboflavin, on the cell surface. These MR1-Antigen complexes are recognised by subsets of MR1-restricted T cells, with the majority being Mucosal-Associated Invariant T (MAIT) cells. MAIT cells have recently been shown to play key roles in antimicrobial immunity, autoimmunity, cancer, and tissue repair.

The overarching aim of our team is to provide ground-breaking findings on (i) the cellular machinery that modulates MR1-metabolite processing; (ii) metabolite presentation and (iii) T cell recognition of these metabolic antigens. Our underlying approach is to express and purify proteins, and determine the three-dimensional protein structure using the expertise in x-ray crystallography. These are complemented by multi-disciplinary and highly innovative approaches including Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR), cellular immunology and advanced atomic and molecular imaging where required. Indeed, such studies improve our understanding of the molecular determinants of T cell immunity and pave the way for the development of innovative therapeutics based on selective modulation of MAIT cell immunity.

Supervision interests

We are seeking motivated and talented people to synergise with the team to make new and seminal discoveries surrounding the MAIT-MR1-metabolites functions.

PhD Scholarship availability

Candidates with a background in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology/Structural Biology with a strong interest in our topic are encouraged to apply. Candidates should have, or in the process of completing, H1 honours degree or equivalent. 

Honours and master project opportunities

Multiple projects are available or download Honours projects here

Email all applications to Wael.awad@monash.edu

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research area keywords

  • Protein Biochemistry
  • X-ray Ccystallography
  • Structural immunology
  • antigen presentation/processing
  • MR1
  • T cell receptors
  • MAIT cells

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