Audio Gus Nossal describes his most noted medical research, 2008

TLF ID R9534

This is an edited sound recording of Sir Gustav Nossal describing the medical research for which he became internationally known. He outlines his contributions to the emerging science of immunology in the 1950s-70s, and how other researchers have been able to make further discoveries based on his initial work. The recording was made in June 2008.



Educational details

Educational value
  • In this recording, Sir Gustav (Gus) Nossal (1931-), one of Australia's best known research scientists and immunologists, discusses his most important work. He looks back on a career that began decades earlier in Melbourne at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) of Medical Research. His international reputation for groundbreaking research was gained mainly for work at the WEHI, of which he was the director from 1965 until 1996.
  • The field of modern immunology was only in a developmental stage when Nossal began his research work, and his first major discovery was that a single cell of the human body always makes only one specific antibody. This was confirmation of a theory advanced by Nossal's Nobel Prize-winning mentor, Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1899-1985), who preceded him as the director of the WEHI.
  • Nossal's discovery of the making of antibodies, made in the late 1950s, was a turning point internationally in how the medical profession understood the way the body's immune system works. In particular, it led to the discovery that monoclonal antibodies - that is, antibodies produced by a single clone of cells - can be developed artificially and used to treat disease. As each antibody only binds to one foreign substance they can be used with great accuracy.
  • Nossal also did important work on the reasons a person's body will reject transplanted organs unless the appropriate drugs are administered. This in turn led to the development by other researchers of major drugs such as cyclosporine, which made organ transplants more successful by suppressing the activity of T- and B-cells. These cells are produced by the body to detect and destroy either foreign materials or cells that have become infected or diseased.
  • Austrian-born Nossal has received numerous awards, including a knighthood in 1977. In 2000, he was named Australian of the Year in recognition of his work in helping to build the foundations of modern immunology, for his work against disease globally through the World Health Organisation, and for helping to inspire popular and political interest in science generally. In 2008 he was awarded the Medal of the Australian Society for Medical Research.
Year level

6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

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  • Person: Sir Gustav Nossal
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  • Person: Sir Gustav Nossal
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL: www.esa.edu.au
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