Speaker: Dr Pablo Garcia Valtanen, Research Associate, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, UniSA
Title: Basic immunology lessons from two different model species
Chair: Dr Dan Wijesundara, Virology Group, University of Adelaide and BHI, TQEH. Located BHI Level 1.
Speaker biography: In 2006 Pablo Garcia Valtanen obtained his Bachelor degree in Biology in his home country, Spain, then spent 4 years working as a sanitary inspector for a big company, travelling to Canada and other places and obtaining his Master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of New South Wales (Sydney). He found an opportunity to do a PhD in virology and cell biology, working on the optimisation of DNA vaccines against fish rhabdoviruses. Despite his initial thesis proposal, which said that he would investigate how to improve promoter and gene terminator sequences of existing DNA vaccines, he ended up testing the suitability of newly discovered zebrafish antimicrobial peptides to boost DNA vaccine efficacy and learnt that autophagy, a cell pathway highly conserved across nature’s kingdoms, is crucial for eliciting antiviral immune responses in fish. Both projects resulted in his first two peer-reviewed publications as a scientist.
As his thesis project came to an end, in 2013, he decided that he wanted to go back to Australia to do a postdoc. Before the end of the year he was in Western Australia finishing the final draft of his second publication and the final thesis manuscript. He received his PhD in July 2014. In 2015, he worked as a laboratory demonstrator at the University of Adelaide teaching basic microbiology techniques to veterinary students. Around this time he met Professor Eric Gowans, who gave him the opportunity to work with him and his team with DNA vaccines to prevent and treat HIV and Hepatitis C.
Not long after this, he found his current position at Professor John Hayball’s laboratory (UniSA), where he transformed himself into a mouse immunologist. He is particularly interested in knowing how the innate immune response of mammals can affect important physiological processes such as pregnancy. For this, he is using Poly (I:C), a synthetic double-stranded RNA surrogate, to mimic acute viral infections in mice. These infections take a toll on both the growing foetus and the dams during the mouse pregnancy. Recently he has learnt that the adipose tissue may have a critical role in controlling the inflammatory response that follows Poly (I:C) administration. At the moment, he is investigating whether adipose tissue-resident T and B regulatory cells are involved in the control of inflammation caused by viral infections.