Dr Joseph Yunis

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Frazer Institute
Faculty of Medicine


Dr Joseph Yunis obtained his PhD from the University of Queensland under the mentorship of Associate Professor Philip Stevenson at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences on understanding the role of CD4+ T cells in herpesvirus immunity. He uncovered the immune evasion mechanisms of CD4+ T cells by cytomegaloviruses. Subsequently, he chose to conduct a postdoctoral research training with Professor Di Yu, first at the John Curtin School of Medical Research of Australian National University (Canberra) and then moved to UQ Diamantina Institute with the lab. Primarily using various mouse models, he is investigating the role of CD8+ T cells in elimination infection and driving immunopathology, such as promoting acute respiratory distress syndrome. His research has been recognised by a number of awards including, the UQDI publication of the month award, Bootes Foundation Research Grant, Eureka Research Fund for Immunology and Virology and the UQ postdoctoral retention scheme.

Research Interests

  • Role of T cells in immunity and disease.
    I) Immunopathology: T cells are critical in eliminating infection. However, they can also cause severe disease by driving excessive inflammatory response. The balance between anti-viral, bystander T cells and regulatory T cells shape immunity. My goal is to understand how T cells can be pathologic. II) Cytotoxic CD8+ T cell function: Cytotoxic CD8+ T cells are fundamental in eliminating infection. However, viruses like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and Human cytomegaloviruses take advantage of immune privileged sites such as the germinal centre, and the salivary glands and the nasopharynx to evade immune control. Understanding how we can harness CD8+ T cell trafficking to these immune privileged sites is critical in eliminating infection in hard to reach areas. To achieve this, our lab uses genetic engineering of CD8+ T cells in a mouse model of HIV and EBV using LCMV and MuHV-4 respectively.

Research Impacts

Overall goals:

To understand how T cells shape the immune response to respiratory viruses.

My role in The Yu lab is to uncover how T cells differentiate to becoming protective or pathologic, and what factors (age, gender, virus dose, virus strain or therapy, prior exposure etc) drive this process.

Understanding how different hosts deal with respiratory virus infections will give clues about how to enhance protective immunity. Our goal is to discover a pathway or pathways that predispose the host to developing pathologic T cells and devise a novel therapeutic approach that specifically targets this T cell population without affecting anti-viral T cells. This is the ultimate goal.

Similarly, viruses have evolved to evade the host immune response to colonise immune privileged sites. My goal is to understand how we can break this barrier by genetic engineering. If we can engineer T cells to express molecules required to gain entry into the immune privileged sites, we can eliminate chronic infection.

Research interests:

T cell activation is the most important process in the initiating an immune response. How this happens can shape immunity or lead to tissue damage. This is a dynamic process that is not well understood. There is an urgent need therefore, to develop a model to understand T cell activation and the process that drives pathologic T cells. This can then be harnessed in designing targeted therapies that boost antiviral immunity while targeting pathologic T cells. To achieve this, we have developed and use a number of in vivo models of infectious diseases including:

Murine cytomegalovirus Influenza Murid herpesvirus 4 Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)

These models provide an opportunity to dissect host, pathogen and environmental relationships in understanding T cell differentiation and function.

We use systems biology and bioinformatics to understand this complex biology. At the technical level, we use a number of approaches including; multiparameter flow cytometry, histology, microscopy, real-time qPCR, virological assays, and ELISA.


  • Bachelor (Honours) of Science, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


View all Grants


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision


Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

  • Yunis, Joseph (2018). Anti-herpesvirus CD4+ T cell function. PhD Thesis, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, The University of Queensland. doi: 10.14264/uql.2018.832

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor