About Dr Bernadette Saunders
Bernadette's interest is to understand the immunological response to tuberculosis and find new therapies to treat this devastating disease.
Dr Bernadette Saunders has worked in the field of mycobacterial research for over 10 years. She has extensive experience investigating the immunology, pathology and genetics of tuberculosis disease. The mycobacterial research program at the Centenary Institute, headed by Prof Warwick Britton, is an internationally competitive group and the largest tuberculosis research laboratory in Australia.
Dr Saunders joined the Mycobacterial Research Laboratory in April 1999 after completing post doctoral studies in the Mycobacterial Research group at Colorado State University. Dr Saunders made significant contributions to their research output notably in studies using gene-disrupted mutant mice to examine the roles of IL-6, IL-4, IFN-g and ICAM-1 in granuloma formation and maintenance. Since joining the Centenary Institute she has continued to build on her research strengths in the field of tuberculosis, managing productive, collaborative projects investigating both the murine model of tuberculosis and the relationship between genetic susceptibility and immunity in TB patients. Using the murine model of tuberculosis Dr Saunders has made major contributions, determining the importance and mechanism of action of members of the TNF superfamily (particularly soluble and transmembrane TNF, Lymphotoxin and LIGHT) in control of TB disease and the regulation of inflammation and granuloma formation during infection. Currently her group is investigating modulation of the host response to tuberculosis by generating chimeric mice over-expressing macrophage effector genes using a lenti-viral vector system. To compliment the murine studies, Dr Saunders had an additional major research project focused on investigating the causes of the increased susceptibility of some individuals to reactivation of TB disease. This includes a recently published study demonstrating that a polymorphism in the P2X7 receptor is associated with increased susceptibility to developing extrapulmonary tuberculosis and several additional publications demonstrating a potential mechanism of action of the ATP-P2X7 pathway in controlling mycobacterial infection. While in Colorado, Dr Saunders assisted in the supervision of four PhD students. Since joining the Centenary Institute she has supervised 7 students from Honours to PhD. She has presented and published her work consistently, reviews papers for several international journals and in 2007 she is chairing the organising committee for the Australian Society of Immunology Annual Conference.