Our people

Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom


Gut Immunology Team Leader

Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom completed her undergraduate education at Victoria University of Wellington. She became interested in gastrointestinal allergy and inflammation during a summer  scholarship at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University (ANU) in 2001.

Following two years working as a Research Officer at ANU, Elizabeth began her PhD in 2004, focused on understanding the immunopathogenesis of inflammatory diseases of the gut. In the final year of her PhD she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to undertake research at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the USA.

Elizabeth returned to New Zealand in 2007 to take up a postdoctoral fellowship position with the Malaghan Institute, specialising in the development of novel experimental models for studying food allergy. In 2008 she received a Science and Technology Postdoctoral Fellowship and in 2009 the Graham Jackson Mucosal Immunology Prize. In 2011 Elizabeth received the Heslop Travel Award for best postdoctoral presentation at the New Zealand Branch of the Australasian Society for Immunology meeting.

In 2013, Elizabeth was appointed as Team Leader of our Gut Immunology research programme. She is also a  member of the Gut Health Network.

Research interests

The gut is a remarkable immunological organ. It can tolerate food antigens and commensal microbes while powerfully attacking invading pathogens. It has become apparent that the specific combination of microbes that compose the intestinal microbiome has a profound influence on immune responses in the gut and also in other tissues, supporting healthy immune responses or predisposing to chronic inflammatory diseases such as allergy, cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and obesity.

A recent cover of “Time” magazine identified chronic inflammatory diseases as ‘the secret killer’ of the modern world. These diseases have reached epidemic proportions and, for the first time, they are reversing the increases in life expectancy that have occurred over the last century.

The latest scientific studies identify the gut as the key organ where these chronic inflammatory diseases are initiated and maintained. Yet the immunological mechanisms that determine gut health versus inflammation remain poorly understood.

The goal of my research is to understand how poor gut health leads to the development and persistence of gut inflammation in food allergy and IBD, and to disease outside of the gut such as obesity. The proposed research takes an immunological approach to gut health and disease that will move our understanding beyond local immune responses in the gut, encompassing the dynamic interplay between food, the immune cellular networks in the gut and the microbial communities within.

Research group

Gut Inflammation Team
Team Leader: Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom
Research Fellows: Dr Hazel Poyntz
Dr Lieke van den Elsen
PhD Student: Catherine Plunkett



Camberis M, Prout M, Tang SC, Forbes-Blom E, Robinson M, Kyle R, Belkaid Y, Paul W, Le Gros G (2013) Evaluating the in vivo Th2 priming potential among common allergens. J Immunol Methods, 394:62-72

Roediger B, Kyle R, Ho Yip K, Sumaria N, Guy TV, Kim BS, Mitchell AJ, Tay SS, Jain R, Forbes-Blom E, Chen X, Tong PL, Bolton HA, Artis D, Paul WE, Fazekas de St Groth B, Grimbaldeston MA, Le Gros G, Weninger W (2013) Cutaneous immunosurveillance and regulation of inflammation by group 2 innate lymphoid cells. Nat Immunol, 14:564-73


Enomoto N, Hyde E, Ma JZ, Yang J, Forbes-Blom E, Delahunt B, Le Gros G, Ronchese F (2012) Allergen-specific CTL require perforin expression to suppress allergic airway inflammation. J Immunol, 188:1734-41

Forbes-Blom E, Camberis M, Prout M, Tang SC, Le Gros G (2012) Staphylococcal derived superantigen enhances peanut induced Th2 responses in the skin. Clin Exp Allergy, 42:305-14


van Panhuys N, Prout M, Forbes E, Min B, Paul WE, Le Gros G (2011) Basophils are the major producers of IL-4 during primary helminth infection. J Immunol, 186:2719-28


Forbes E, van Panhuys N, Min B, Le Gros G (2010) Differential requirements for IL-4/STAT6 signalling in CD4 T-cell fate determination and Th2-immune effector responses. Immunol Cell Biol, 88:240-3


Ahrens R, Waddell A, Seidu L, Blanchard C, Carey R, Forbes E, Lampinen M, Wilson T, Cohen E, Stringer K, Ballard E, Munitz A, Xu H, Lee N, Lee JJ, Rothenberg ME, Denson L, Hogan SP (2008) Intestinal macrophage/epithelial cell-derived CCL11/eotaxin-1 mediates eosinophil recruitment and function in pediatric ulcerative colitis. J Immunol, 181:7390-9

Forbes EE, Groschwitz K, Abonia JP, Brandt EB, Cohen E, Blanchard C, Ahrens R, Seidu L, McKenzie A, Strait R, Finkelman FD, Foster PS, Matthaei KI, Rothenberg ME, Hogan SP (2008) IL-9- and mast cell-mediated intestinal permeability predisposes to oral antigen hypersensitivity. J Exp Med, 205:897-913 & Nature Rev Immunol, 8:321


Forbes E, Hulett M, Ahrens R, Wagner N, Smart V, Matthaei KI, Brandt EB, Dent LA, Rothenberg ME, Tang M, Foster PS, Hogan SP (2006) ICAM-1-dependent pathways regulate colonic eosinophilic inflammation. J Leukoc Biol, 80:330-41

Sharkhuu T, Matthaei KI, Forbes E, Mahalingam S, Hogan SP, Hansbro PM, Foster PS (2006) Mechanism of interleukin-25 (IL-17E)-induced pulmonary inflammation and airways hyper-reactivity. Clin Exp Allergy, 36:1575-83

Research stories

$6.2 million investment to curb New Zealand’s allergy epidemic

MEDIA RELEASE Today the Health Research Council of New Zealand announced their ~$6.2 ...

Read more

A key regulator - IL-25

SCOPE 50 Does the cytokine IL-25 hold the key to preventing gut dysfunction? Scientis...

Read more

Identifying the critical gut immune cells

SCOPE 50 The gut immune system faces unique challenges, not least of which is the she...

Read more

Immune regulation in the gut

SCOPE 50 Our gut is our most important immunological organ. The gut mucosa contains m...

Read more

Gut health

More than two millennia ago, Hippocrates said, “all disease begins in the gut.” Only ...

Read more

Immune cell discovery could explain cause of skin allergy

MEDIA RELEASE A trans-Tasman collaboration between researchers at the Malaghan Instit...

Read more

Getting to the guts of food allergy

Through the development of novel experimental models our scientists have been able to...

Read more

NZ Govt invests in Malaghan research to help Generation A

New Zealand has a problem and it’s not mollycoddled kids, or over-zealous parents - g...

Read more