ARE 2012

Professor Goodnow

Australian National University’s Professor Chris Goodnow claimed the 2012 Award for Research Excellence for his pioneering work on autoimmune diseases. 

Professor Goodnow was awarded the $80,000 grant to further develop his world-leading research on the cause of autoimmune diseases – something still unknown in most people affected by these disorders. 

With funding from the grant Goodnow is now testing a controversial theory - that autoimmune disorders are a form of benign cancer - and has the potential to lead to more effective treatments and preventions for the millions who struggle or are at risk of these diseases globally. 

“It’s a high risk and high returns approach – testing a theory for autoimmune disease that’s somewhat controversial. Some people really love it, but some people really hate it. That’s a good sign; no one finds it boring.” Professor Goodnow said. 

During his 30 years of research, he has improved our understanding of how the immune system decides what is a person’s body and what is an invading microbe that should be attacked. In patients with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system can't tell the difference between healthy body tissue and microbes. Professor Goodnow has also identified genes and pathways involved in these decisions. 

On receiving the award, Professor Goodnow spoke about how funding from the grant will enable his research team to use a new technology, known as Massively Parallel Sequencing , to test his controversial hypothesis – that autoimmune diseases are a form of benign lymphoma cancer. 

“It is an honour and a very exciting time to be recognised for my work. While there is still a long way to go in this area, this award has come at a very exciting stage of our research, and will help take us to the next level,” Professor Goodnow said. 

“Without the grant from this award, the process to apply for funding to use the Massively Parallel Sequencing technology would potentially halt our research for years, delaying our understanding of autoimmune diseases and discovery of new treatments. 

Although his hypothesis that autoimmunity is a benign form of lymphoma cancer is controversial, Professor Goodnow believes that he is on the right track. Further, his hero and major influence, Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet arrived at the same theory back in 1972.