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Personal profile

Biography

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Rheumatology Research Group, headed by Professor Eric Morand from the Department of Medicine at Monash University. Within this group I am part of the research team led by Dr. Sarah Jones, studying the role of glucocorticoid induced leucine zipper (GILZ) in autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

After obtaining my MSc degree at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, studying the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells from human fibroblasts, I undertook my PhD with A/Prof. Erik Lubberts and Prof. Mieke Hazes at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. There I studied the effect of vitamin D on T helper-17 cells in the context of Rheumatoid Arthritis. As part of my PhD studies, I spent three months at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, United States, in the lab of Dr. John O’Shea with an EMBO Short Term Fellowship to gain expertise in chromatin immunoprecipitation and next-generation sequencing. After successfully defending my PhD thesis in 2018, I was recruited to Monash University to explore the molecular mechanisms by which GILZ suppresses autoimmunity.

Research interests

Prevalence of autoimmune diseases is rising worldwide and often has a major and debilitating impact on affected patients. For some of these diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, treatment has improved in the last two decades. However for many others, including Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, or lupus), we have been treating the patients with the same harmful drugs for the past 60 years.

A crucial aspect for improving the lives of patients with autoimmune diseases is to understand the underlying immunological processes. The pathways that regulate the immune system and, in a healthy situation, prevent aberrant activation and chronic inflammation are extremely interesting in this context. My expertise lies in modulation of the adaptive immune system, particularly T helper cells, but I am also interested in the innate immune cells that have a demonstrated role in the development of autoimmune diseases.

The research in our group focuses on the potent anti-inflammatory molecule glucocorticoid induced leucine zipper (GILZ), studying its activation, inhibition and molecular functions in a range of immune cells. These studies are done in in vitro culture systems, experimental lupus models and clinical samples obtained via the multi-thousand sample lupus biobank based in our research centre. Together we are working towards a therapeutic strategy to target GILZ and improve the lives of patients with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

Education/Academic qualification

Autoimmunity, PhD, Erasmus University Rotterdam

20112018

Award Date: 26 Jun 2018

Biomedical Engineering, MSc, University of Twente

20082011

Award Date: 4 Feb 2011

Biomedical Engineering, BSc, University of Twente

Award Date: 29 Aug 2008

Research area keywords

  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Adaptive Immunity
  • B cells
  • T cells
  • Th17 cells
  • GILZ
  • glucocorticoids
  • vitamin D
  • Molecular and Cellular Pathogenesis
  • Pathways

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