Professors win prestigious RPA Foundation Medal

Outstanding research into bacterial skin infections has won leading clinician and Centenary Laboratory Head the shared honour of the prestigious RPA Foundation Medal – Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s, highest accolade.

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, Immune Imaging

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, Head of Immune Imaging

Professor Wolfgang Weninger, who heads up Centenary Institute’s Immune Imaging program, and Professor Paul Torzillo, RPA’s Head of Department of Respiratory Medicine – were announced joint winners, each taking home $35,000 to invest in medical and health-based research.

Dermatology expert Professor Weninger was honoured for his research into the mechanisms of skin inflammation and infection. In particular, his group is interested how the function of the skin immune system is inhibited by highly infectious bacteria and other microbes.

He will be using the award to continue his studies into skin infection and inflammation, in particular the function of certain immune cell subsets, termed macrophages, which play an essential role in responding to and fighting disease.

“This award will allow us to generate a new transgenic mouse in which macrophages can be specifically deleted,” he said.

“We have recently discovered that some of these cells act as gatekeepers of the immune system in the skin following bacterial infections. In order to study the biology of these cells in more detail, we now wish to express constructs to conditionally destroy macrophages at various stages of skin diseases.

“We anticipate that data obtained from these studies will allow us to gain completely novel insight into the interactions between disease-causing agents and our immune system, as well as the mechanisms causing inflammatory skin disease,” Professor Weninger said.

Following many years of work, it is his team of researchers to which he attributes the honour.

“You don’t win an award like this on your own. I have a dedicated team who work very hard behind the scenes.

“This includes my colleagues from the Centenary Institute who work in collaboration with researchers at the University of Sydney, Harvard, Monash University and the Singapore Immunology Network. We have won this award by working together.”

Professor Weninger, who has been Head of Department, Dermatology, at RPA since 2007, completed his medical and clinical training in Vienna. He previously worked at Harvard Medical School, the Wistar Institute and the University of Pennsylvania in the fields of dermatology, venereology and immunology.

He has received numerous accolades for his research, the most recent being the 2012 – 2014 Career Development Fellowship by the Cancer Institute NSW.

Professor Torzillo, Head of Department for Respiratory Medicine, was also honoured with the RPA Foundation Medal and will use his winnings to fund the Karrabing Indigenous Corporation Project, a multi-media enterprise in the Anson Bay region of the Northern Territory.

The project nurtures the physical, psychological and cultural health of indigenous people by assisting with sustainable employment and cultural vitality between young and old family members of the Karrabing Indigenous Corporation.

 —

Thank you to the Sydney Local Health District Media Unit for the above content. For more information on the medal, call them on 9515 9607 or 0409 243 544.

For more information on Centenary Institute visit our website www.centenary.org.au or call us on 1800 677 977.

Donate to medical research into skin diseases here.