Feb 20, 2023
Yazmin Nouri - Malaghan Institute
Empowering the Immune System

Yasmin gave a brilliantly clear explanation of the work she has been involved in at the Malaghan Institute on some of the latest developments in immunology. She gave a brief background. She is a post graduate research student who has very nearly completed her PHD. The Malaghan Institute is an independent research organisation specialising in medical research. Based at Victoria University's Kelburn site it was originally called The Wellington Medical Research Institute but after a massive donation from Glen Malaghan, who founded Tip Top Ice cream it was renamed. It currently has 130 staff comprising 90 scientists and 40 support staff.

Our white blood cells are the soldiers of our immune system.  They defend us from cells that cause cancer, asthma, various allergies such as Crohn's and other infectious diseases. To do this they need to identify "enemy" cells, some of which can normally escape detection. Modern research allows scientists to CAR-T cell therapy, by which some of a patient's white cells can be removed, re-programmed to recognise the enemy cells involved and then re-introduced to the body to identify and destroy the invaders. The process involves isolating the T cells and designing a receptor to attach to the outside of the T cells which will recognise and fasten on to and subsequently destroy the cancerous cells.

This treatment is available in USA but costs $100,000 per patient. Yasmin has been working on a process being developed in NZ where the cost would be nearer $5000. Currently it is in the experimental stage and is being used only on patients with terminal cancer which has exhausted all other treatments.  Yasmin showed slides of the T cells in a patient killing the cancerous cells three days after treatment and four days after treatment.  The cells were shown with different colours and we could see how effectively the T cells worked.  The Institute has treated twenty-one patients and has had a success rate of one hundred and sixty per cent.

This is not the only work the Institute is doing, among other things it is also developing a platform for manufacturing better Covid vaccines.