Associate Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams

Principal Research Fellow

The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
Faculty of Medicine

Director (Research Training)

Research Strategy and Support (Medicine)
Faculty of Medicine

Overview

Associate Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams’ career focuses on understanding how immune tolerance is disrupted leading to the development of type 1 diabetes. She received her PhD from the Australian National University in 2001 and later trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. Currently an Associate Professor at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, her laboratory now focuses on developing an immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes as well as understanding the role of the gut microbiota in as a potential trigger for type 1 diabetes. Her laboratory is using nanoparticle technology to deliver an immunotherapy that specifically tolerises the immune cells that cause type 1 diabetes and is working towards a first-in -human trial of this approach. She uses state-of-the-art protein sequencing techniques to probe how disturbances in the gut microbiota of children with type 1 diabetes impacts the function of the gut and the pancreas. She recently currently conducted a clinical trial of a microbiome-targeting dietary supplement aimed at restoring a healthy microbiome and immune tolerance with an ultimate aim of preventing type 1 diabetes.

Research Interests

  • Immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes
    The Hamilton-Williams lab is currently using liposomal nanoparticles to develop a vaccine to specifically prevent or treat type 1 diabetes. Liposomes are a safe and tailorable vehicle to deliver immune-modulating drugs and antigen in order to induce tolerance in islet-specific T cells. Our current work is optimising the delivery route, frequency, antigen and adjunct therapies in order to maximise disease protection from our immunotherapy. This approach is being translated for human use with the first clinical trial planning in progress.
  • The gut microbiome in type 1 diabetes
    Our second theme focuses on understanding disease pathogenesis in type 1 diabetes with a focus on the gut microbiota. We have pioneered the use of metaproteomics to understand host-microbiota interactions in type 1 diabetes. We hope to use this approach to uncover novel biomarkers associated with intestinal inflammation in type 1 diabetes and are now using this method to monitor therapeutic response in a gut microbiota targeted clinical trial. We are also studying the role of the gut microbiome and gut virome as potential triggers of type 1 diabetes and seek to develop clinical tests to predict future disease progression.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science with Honours, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University

Publications

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Supervision

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Available Projects

  • Environmental factors such as diet and infections are thought to influence the development of type 1 diabetes. We are investigating the link between environment, the gut microbiota and viruses in predisposition to type 1 diabetes. This project will use a clinical cohort of stool samples to investigate changes in both human and microbiota derived factors that are associated with increasing risk of developing disease. Techniques to be used will include proteomics, bioinformatics and bacterial gene seqeuncing. The applicant should have some background in either protein chemistry, immunology or bioinformatics techniques.

  • Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the most common chronic disease of childhood. It is triggered by an immune dysregulation causing T cells to attack the insulin-producing islet beta cells in the pancreas. This results in elevated blood-glucose and severe life-long complications. Our laboratory aims to develop a T cell targeted immunotherapy to prevent or treat T1D. For this goal to be successful, better tools are needed to detect and characterise islet-specific T cells in patient blood as a way to monitor responses to immunotherapy. An understanding is needed of how these T cell responses vary between different patient groups. This project aims to develop an approach to personalised immunomonitoring of islet specific T cells using state-of-the-art high-parameter immune profiling, single cell sequencing and clonotype analysis of islet-specific T cells in patient blood. This approach will later be used to characterise how these T cells respond to immunotherapy. The ideal candidate will have prior knowledge and academic achievement in the field of immunology. Practical experience in T cell biology, autoimmunity or sequencing analysis would be desirable. This project is aligned with a National Health and Medical Research Council funded grant and will be co-supervised by A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams, Prof Ranjeny Thomas and Dr Mark Harris. The supervisor team are highly experienced and provide broad expertise and experience in immunology, translational and clinical research.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Environmental factors such as diet and infections are thought to influence the development of type 1 diabetes. We are investigating the link between environment, the gut microbiota and viruses in predisposition to type 1 diabetes. This project will use a clinical cohort of stool samples to investigate changes in both human and microbiota derived factors that are associated with increasing risk of developing disease. Techniques to be used will include proteomics, bioinformatics and bacterial gene seqeuncing. The applicant should have some background in either protein chemistry, immunology or bioinformatics techniques.

  • Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the most common chronic disease of childhood. It is triggered by an immune dysregulation causing T cells to attack the insulin-producing islet beta cells in the pancreas. This results in elevated blood-glucose and severe life-long complications. Our laboratory aims to develop a T cell targeted immunotherapy to prevent or treat T1D. For this goal to be successful, better tools are needed to detect and characterise islet-specific T cells in patient blood as a way to monitor responses to immunotherapy. An understanding is needed of how these T cell responses vary between different patient groups. This project aims to develop an approach to personalised immunomonitoring of islet specific T cells using state-of-the-art high-parameter immune profiling, single cell sequencing and clonotype analysis of islet-specific T cells in patient blood. This approach will later be used to characterise how these T cells respond to immunotherapy. The ideal candidate will have prior knowledge and academic achievement in the field of immunology. Practical experience in T cell biology, autoimmunity or sequencing analysis would be desirable. This project is aligned with a National Health and Medical Research Council funded grant and will be co-supervised by A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams, Prof Ranjeny Thomas and Dr Mark Harris. The supervisor team are highly experienced and provide broad expertise and experience in immunology, translational and clinical research.