Travel Story: Dr Kerrilyn Diener

Kerrilyn DienerDr Kerrilyn Diener from the Robinson Research Institute’s Reproductive Immunology Research Group attended the Inflammation in Reproduction, Pregnancy and Development symposium in Palm Cove, Queensland in August 2016.

Kerrilyn was invited to give a talk on her research Murine cytomegalovirus infection during early pregnancy impacts on reproductive outcomes.

This is what Kerrilyn had to say about her experience:

What was a highlight of the conference?

Apart from Richard Flavell’s presentation, Grant Morahan gave a fantastic presentation outlining the power of supercomputers and genetic technology and how this can be used to uncover sub-populations within diseased cohorts. I had heard about this technology before via third parties, however had not seen a presentation which clearly outlined how this has the power to change the way that patients are treated. I hope to interact with this group in the future in an attempt to determine which neonates are more/less susceptible to sepsis and/or how survival may impact on future development in an effort to increase survival and reduce morbidity in septic babies.

Did you meet any researchers or collaborators of significance? Why are they important to your work?

I consider Richard Flavell a bit of a ‘god’ in the innate immunology, immune sensing arena, and so it was pleasing to discover at the opening welcome reception that he is also a genuinely nice person. Richard gave a fantastic talk in the opening session which was not only interesting for the topic he presented, but also a tour-de-force in the logical rationale behind what and how the project was progressed. It was one of those research talks that highlighted that these sorts of studies are often only carried through to the end conclusion in laboratories with a very secure funding base, which is a bit bitter sweet in that it often feels like actually achieving the same is somewhat unattainable in the current research environment. In saying that, Richard indicated that he was willing to provide reagents and mentorship to aspects of our current projects, a response that was completely unexpected, but could be the key to value-adding to current data, which may result in higher impact papers.

David Burgner / Andrew Currie work together on paediatric innate immunity and infection disease. They represent a combination of basic scientist and paediatric infectious disease clinician and should discussions progress, could provide a strong link to clinical aspects of our neonatal sepsis studies, particularly access to samples. The ultimate aim here is to bring them into our sepsis collaborations to strengthen the project and therefore future grant funding.

I have met Niamh Mangan previously, however it was good to re-connect and talk about their interferon epsilon data and how the knowledge that they have uncovered might be useful in planning for our Zika vaccine in pregnancy studies that we are starting in 2017.

How will the experience support you and your research going forward?

Linking up with the WA neonatal research group will be hugely beneficial for our ongoing research and this is the priority going forward.

What was the most exciting thing you learned/experienced at the Conference?

Grant Morahan and the power of supercomputers.

What was the most interesting or unexpected moment of your travel?

Discovering how 4 days without family, students, or employees can be hugely beneficial for thinking solely about research projects and planning for the future.

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