THE 2019 MERCK RESEARCH MEDAL: KATE SCHRODER
Institute for Molecular Bioscience
University of Queensland
Associate Professor Kate Schroder heads the Inflammasome Laboratory at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), University of Queensland, as an NHMRC RD Wright Fellow. She is also the Director of the IMB Centre for Inflammation and Disease Research, the Chair of the IMB Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and an editorial board member for Science Signaling, Cell Death and Disease and Clinical and Translational Immunology.
Kate’s graduate studies with Professor David Hume defined novel macrophage activation mechanisms, and her PhD was awarded in 2005. Her subsequent postdoctoral research with Professor Hume and Professor Sweet identified surprising inter-species divergence in the inflammatory programs of human versus mouse macrophages (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2012). As an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellow in Switzerland, Kate then trained with Professor Jürg Tschopp, a pioneer in the fields of inflammasome and cell death signalling pathways. Kate returned to Australia, and was appointed an IMB lab head in 2013. Kate’s laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms governing inflammasome activity and caspase activation, the cell biology of inflammation, cell death and host defence, and mechanisms of inflammasome inhibition by cellular pathways and small molecule inhibitors. Research highlights from her new lab include (1) the discovery of mechanisms controlling caspase-1 activation and deactivation within inflammasomes (Journal of Experimental Medicine 2018, ESI highly cited); (2) elucidation of mechanisms controlling trafficking of the inflammasome target cytokine, IL-1β, for secretion (Cell Reports 2018); (3) the discovery that that inflammasome signalling does not always commit a cell to die (Cell Reports 2014, F1000 recommended); (4) identification of a new mechanism of host defence against bacteria, in which signalling by the caspase-4/11 inflammasome induces neutrophils to expel their chromatin to form antimicrobial structures, called neutrophil extracellular traps (Science Immunology 2018); and (5) the development of small molecule inhibitors of the NLRP3 inflammasome (three international patent families), and elucidation of the their mechanism of action (in press). These compounds are currently under commercialisation by the UQ startup company, Inflazome Ltd, as novel anti-inflammatory therapeutics. Kate served on the Inflazome Scientific Advisory Board from 2016–2017.
Kate has published approximately 100 articles, in top journals such as Cell, Science, Nature Medicine, Nature Genetics, Science Immunology, Nature Chemical Biology, Journal of Experimental Medicine and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. She is the recipient of the 2014 Milstein Young Investigator Award, 2013 QLD Tall Poppy Award, 2010 QLD Premier’s Postdoctoral Award and the 2008 Society for Leukocyte Biology’s Dolph Adams Award.