Ian van Driel is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, University of Melbourne. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Western Australia before embarking upon a PhD at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. After three years as a research fellow in Dallas, Texas, USA he returned to Australia in 1989 to take up a position at Monash University, Melbourne and moved to the University of Melbourne in 2001. He now heads a research laboratory at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, University of Melbourne working on immune responses to pathogenic bacteria in the lung and gut, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune disease. Professor van Driel's work currently focusses on investigating the immune response to pathogenic bacteria, particularly pathogenic E coli and L. pneumophila. This work seeks to better define the roles of immune cells and molecules that combat bacteria in the tissues in which they colonise, namely; the gut and lung. Professor van Driel has also made a number of fundamental contributions to the understanding of autoimmune disease and immunological tolerance particularly in the area of autoimmunity of the stomach (autoimmune gastritis and pernicious anaemia).
Research areas Innate immune responses to pathogenic bacteria 1. Innate Immune responses to lung bacterial pathogens We aim to define the acute innate immune network that plays a crucial role in combatting bacterial pathogens in lung tissue. Innate immune responses in infected tissues are essential for the control of invading pathogens in the early phase of infection. Despite its vital role, the main cells and factors that contribute to, control and coordinate innate immune responses in tissues are very poorly defined. To address the control of innate responses in infected lung we have investigated the cells and factors that are responsible for acute resistance to the intracellular bacterial respiratory pathogen Legionella pneumophila, the most common cause of the acute form of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease. These findings will be of relevance to other lung pathogens and diseases. Currently we are examine the roles of dendritic cells, T cells and innate lymphoid cells using mouse models, genetically manipulated mice and RNA sequencing approaches. 2. Immune responses to gut pathogens and inflammatory bowel disease. This research project focuses on understanding the host immune system in response to infection of Citrobacter rodentium, which is a mouse-specific bacterial pathogen that is closely related to human enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and causes a disease that mimics inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The outcome of this study will deepen our understanding of the contribution of the host immune response to bacterial disease as well as identify possible new therapeutic strategies for chronic intestinal pathological conditions such as IBD.