Professor Robert Brink’s longstanding research interest has been identifying the mechanisms that control antibody-mediated immune protection and autoimmunity.
This has been achieved primarily through the construction of genetically modified mouse lines as a basis for tractable, high-resolution in vivo experimental models for the study of the in vivo activation, expansion, and differentiation of lymphocytes during immune responses. In particular, his work has focussed on unravelling the dynamic processes that control the fate of B cells as they undergo somatic hypermutation of their antibody genes within specialised germinal centres. This work has led to a series of fundamental insights into how the germinal centre response generates the most effective possible antibodies for immune protection but generally avoids production of pathogenic autoantibodies.
Prof Brink’s experience in producing genetically modified mice led him to be an early adopter of the revolutionary approach to gene editing afforded by CRISPR/Cas9 technology.
In 2014, he established a facility that has now produced more than 280 genetically modified mouse strains using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in mouse embryos. The exploitation of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene therapy in monogenic human disease and other translational applications is another major interest of his laboratory.
Professor Robert Brink obtained his PhD in 1992 from the University of Sydney (Centenary Institute), studying the mechanisms that prevent autoantibody production by self-reactive B cells.
He worked at the Whitehead Institute in Boston from 1994-96, before returning to the Centenary Institute, where he developed a series of genetically modified mouse models to investigate antibody responses and lymphocyte development.
In 2006, Prof Brink was recruited to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney to head the B Cell Biology group. He served as Head of the Institute’s Immunology Division and established the MEGA facility for production of genetically modified mice using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.
His major research focus is the regulation of B cell survival and antibody production during immune and autoimmune responses, with particular interest in the regulation and function of the germinal centre reaction.
He is also currently the Director of Translation Science at the Garvan Institute and working on the development of antibody- and CRISPR/Cas9-based therapies.
Prof Brink has been supported by ongoing NHRMC Project, Program and Fellowship Grant funding since 1998 and currently holds an NHMRC L3 Investigator Grant.Back to Our People