Environmental & Genetic Epidemiology Research

The Environmental and Genetic Epidemiology group aims to improve knowledge in the prevention of diseases, particularly immune disorders. With several child immune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and food allergies on the increase, genetic factors, though important, are not sufficient to explain the increase in these diseases.

This group aims to better understand the factors driving this increased risk of child immune disorders and other diseases. The goal is to generate further knowledge that will hopefully lead into direct policy and prevention activity to decrease the risk of children developing type 1 diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, or child allergies. One of the largest studies in this group is the Barwon Infant Study (BIS), a birth cohort study with relatively intensive data and biospecimen collection at regular intervals from pregnancy until the child reaches school age.

Group Members: 
Dr Peter Vuillermin
Role: 
Research Officer
Dr Angela Pezic
Role: 
Research Officer
Dr Cong Sun
Role: 
Senior Research Fellow
Dr Gabriella Tikellis
Role: 
Senior Research Officer
Dr Christos Symeonides
Role: 
PhD Student
Prof Terry Dwyer
Role: 
Esteemed Honorary Fellow
Prof Andrew Kemp
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Dr Hadi Bima
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Dr Pamela Leong
Role: 
Research Coordinator
Tina Vaiano
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Yuk Jing (Jane) Loke
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Christiane Theda
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Alana Druitt
Role: 
Masters Student
Helen Raschella
Role: 
Administrative Assistant
Prof Shujin Li
Role: 
Visiting academic
Anna Czajko
Role: 
Technical Officer
Mihiri Silva
Role: 
PhD Student
Sebastian Bass-Stringer
Role: 
Honours Student
Philippa Dalach
Role: 
Honours Student
Ana Yap
Role: 
Volunteer
Kieran Fahey
Role: 
Volunteer
Jacinta Sherlock
Role: 
Volunteer
Aileen Bahl
Role: 
Visiting International Student
Juan Castillo-Fernaandez
Role: 
Visiting International Student

The Barwon Infant Study
This is a population drive birth cohort study with antenatal recruitment conducted in Barwon region, Victoria Australia. Given the recognised need for deep phenotyping in modern epidemiological studies, BIS has been designed to facilitate a detailed laboratory investigation of child development within the population health framework. 

The Paediatric Autoimmune Disease Platform
This is a shared platform across several research groups at the Institute. It is the site for two of the EGE projects, the early environment and type 1 diabetes prevention project (EET1DPP) and the demyelination study (The D study).

The early environment and type 1 diabetes prevention project
This is a case control study involving children with newly-onset type 1 diabetes mellitus under the age of 15, and two control sets of children. This study aims to better understand the environmental and genetic determinants of autoimmune type 1 diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes has increased in incidence among children in recent decades. The causes for this increase are not known but the increases particularly occurred amongst children who appeared to be at lower genetic risk and thus environmental factors are of a particular interest.

The D (demyelination) study
This study aims to examine possible early life environmental factors that may be associated with an increased risk of a child experiencing a demyelinating event during childhood that is under 15 years of age. Demyelination occurs when the white matter surrounding a nerve in the central nervous system becomes disrupted by inflammation. It is sometimes but not always a precursor to multiple sclerosis however in children it can sometimes be a single event. The reasons why some children only experience a single event but others have an ongoing course are not yet known.

The peri/post natal epigenetic twin study
This is a longitudinal cohort of 250 pairs of Australian twins and their mothers who were recruited midway through pregnancy from January 2007 to September 2009.  The study centred on the developmental origins of health and disease paradigm in which the first intrauterine environment predisposes the individual to complex diseases in later life by altering developmental plasticity.