Dr Anna Brooks

PhD, immnunology. BCA, management

Profile Image
Senior Research Fellow


Research: I currently hold an appointment as a Senior Research Fellow with the Maurice Wilkins Centre, a Centre for Research Excellence. My primary research interest brings together my strong expertise in multicolour flow cytometry, cellular immunology and mesenchymal stromal cell biology to try and better understand immune/stromal cell interactions in health and disease. 

I am an experienced cellular immunologist and my research focusses on deep "immune profiling" which involves characterising cell populations in both blood and digested tissues using advanced cell analysis technologies. I am also interested in dissecting stromal cell heterogeneity in various human tissues to understand how they interface with an immune cell niche.

Director of Auckland Cytometry: I am the director of Auckland Cytometry, the shared resource flow cytometry core facility, at the School of Biological Sciences, for the Faculty of Science. 

We specialise in complex, mulitucolour panel design and optimisation and are currently running up to 29 colours simultaneously, using spectral cytometry.


Research | Current

Current Research:

The two main areas that I work in are human immune profiling and mesenchymal stem/stromal cells

1. Immune profiling: Immune profiling involves characterising immune cell populations in the blood or digested complex tissues using advanced flow cytometry. We use these techniques to characterise immune involvement in cancer patients, as well as to track immune responses following viral infectious or to track drug treatments following clinical interventions. We hope to better understand the immune environment so we can improve therapies for cancer and infectious diseases. 

Immune profiling projects

  • Characterisation of antigen presenting cells in human blood and tissues (lymph nodes)
  • Characterisation of myeloid cell populations in human blood
  • Advanced immune profiling during treatment of chronic viral disease 

Media: New Zealand COVID-19 long-haulers still suffering long-term effects a year on


Research Study Recruitment: Interested in participating in our research studies? Check out our study info here: Healthy blood samples needed to develop new therapies for cancer and disorders of the immune system


2. Mesenchymal stromal cells: I am currently developing innovative and integrative technologies to investigate stromal cell heterogeneity, to try and better understand the diverse cellular populations involved in health and disease. Specifically, I am interested in reconciling the confusion, discrepancies and controversies that surround “mesenchymal stem cell” research in adipose tissue. These studies will have the potential to contribute significantly to the field of mesenchymal research by characterising the heterogeneity of human adipose stromal cells. A comprehensive overview of the different cell populations and importantly, their function, is still lacking. There is currently a huge push to define the stromal vascular fraction of adipose tissue due to their widespread use in unapproved therapies. The use of advanced flow cytometric techniques (26 colour flow cytometry panels) as well as single cell approaches (scRNAseq/CITEseq), will likely accelerate our current understanding of the cellular composition of adipose tissue. 

Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal cells projects

  • Characterisation of adipose tissue progenitor cells: in search of the beige/brite fat precursor cells 
  • Characterisation of mesenchymal and vascular cell populations in human skin (dermis)
  • Characterisation of mesenchymal cell populations in the human lymph node

Research highlightsMWC scientists discover new stem cell in human skin

Clinical Studies:

I am currently involved in a number of clinical trial studies involving developing complex flow cytometry panels for immune monitoring of clinical trials. This includes performing advanced analyses of flow cytometry data to track drug responses for the treatment of chronic viral disease.

Research HighlightsMWC technical excellence helps NZ attract new medicines

Teaching | Current

Course Coordinator and Lecturer BIOSCI758 Development, Differentiation and Disease: Mesenchymal cells in health & disease

Lecturer SCIENT703 Frontiers in Biotechnology: Mesenchymal Cells 

Lecturer MEDSCI740 Stem Cell Biology and Transgenesis: Adipose MSC

Postgraduate supervision

PhD students


Zoe Woolf: Investigation of two macrophage-like populations and their influence on gliomagenesis (with Dr Thomas Park and Prof Michael Dragunow, FMHS)

Anna Boss: The role of Mesenchymal stem cells in placental vasculogenesis: are these perturbed in
pregnancies affected by fetal growth restriction? 
(with Dr Jo James and Prof Larry Chamley;  FMHS)



Yu Yu (Joyce)  Ho: Molecular Programming of human CD8+ T cells​, (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Assoc Prof Roger Booth)

Ray Ge: Activation of immune system by a secreted viral toxin, (with John Taylor)

Daniel Verdon: Human T cell responses to cancer testis antigens, (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Dr. Hilary Sheppard)

Otto Strauss: Liver Antigen Presenting Cells, (with Assoc Prof Adam Bartlett, Assoc Prof Anthony Phillips, Dr Vaughan Feisst, Prof Rod Dunbar)

Elyce du Mez:  Can stimulation of human antigen presenting cells with TLR ligands improve their capacity to initiate a T-lymphocyte response to a vaccine targeting cancer. (with Dr. Catherine Angel, Dr. Julie McIntosh, Dr Scott Graham)

Sarah Meidinger: Understanding the role of stem cells in normal human skin, wound healing and disease (with Prof Rod Dunbar, Dr.Vaughan Feisst, Michelle Locke)

Jennifer Eom: Human mesenchymal cells in health and disease (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Dr.Vaughan Feisst)

Elliott Dunn: Mesenchymal stem cell characterisation and growth from the human epidermis (with Prof Rod Dunbar, Dr.Vaughan Feisst)

Alicia Didsbury: Molecular characterisation of co-stimulation in human T cells. (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Dr. Hilary Sheppard)

Joanna Mathy: Multi-modal studies of macrophages & myeloid cells in the microenvironment of melanoma metastases (with Prof Rod Dunbar and Peter Shepherd)

BioMed (Hons) Students


Sotaro Ochiai: A polarising protein in T-lymphocytes:Neuroserpin Expression in human cytotoxic T-cells​ (WIth Assoc Prof Nigel Birch)

Monica Boone: Creating the perfect killer​

Herman Cheung: Functional Characterisation of Progenitor Cells and Fibroblasts in Human Dermis, (with Dr.Vaughan Feisst and Dr Hilary Sheppard)

Katy Seddon: Presentation of tumour antigens to human T cells (with Prof Rod Dunbar).


Director of Auckland Cytometry, the flow cytometry core facility for the Faculty of Science

Course coordinator BIOSCI758


Areas of expertise

Flow Cytometry Director

  • Multicolour flow cytometry
  • Spectral Cytometry (Cytek Aurora)
  • Cell sorting
  • Immune assays

Human Immunology

  • Dendritic cells
  • T cell culture
  • T cell cloning

Mesenchymal Stromal Cells

  • Defining heterogeneity of adipose tissue



Committees/Professional groups/Services

International Society for Cell and gene Therapy (ISCT) -extended Australia and New Zealand exec committee 2020-

International Society for Cell and gene Therapy (ISCT) Lab Practices Committee (2019-2021)

Elected councilor for the Australasian Cytometry Society : https://cytometry.org.au/ (2017-2020)

Conference Chairperson for he Australasian Cytometry Society annual meeting 2020/21

Health Research Council Grant Review Committee 2017-2018

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Park, S. M., Brooks, A. E., Chen, C.-J. J., Sheppard, H. M., Loef, E. J., McIntosh, J. D., ... Cebon, J. (2020). Migratory cues controlling B-lymphocyte trafficking in human lymph nodes. Immunology and cell biology10.1111/imcb.12386
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Saem Park, Evert Loef, Hilary Sheppard, Catherine Angel, Rod Dunbar, Chun-Jen Jennifer Chen
  • Wang, S. E., Brooks, A. E. S., Poole, A. M., & Simoes-Barbosa, A. (2020). Determinants of translation efficiency in the evolutionarily-divergent protist Trichomonas vaginalis. BMC molecular and cell biology, 21 (1)10.1186/s12860-020-00297-8
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Augusto Barbosa, Anthony Poole
  • Eom, J. E., Park, S. M., Chen, C.-J. J., Feisst, V. F., Mathy, J. E., McIntosh, J. D., ... Cebon, J. C. (2020). Distinctive Subpopulations of Stromal Cells Are Present in Human Lymph Nodes Infiltrated with Melanoma. Cancer Immunology Research, 8 (8).10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-19-0796
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Saem Park, Vaughan Feisst, Joanna Mathy, Catherine Angel, Rod Dunbar, Chun-Jen Jennifer Chen
  • Iminitoff, M., Damani, T., Williams, E., Brooks, A. E. S., Feisst, V., & Sheppard, H. M. (2020). microRNAs in Ex Vivo Human Adipose Tissue Derived Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (ASC) Undergo Rapid Culture-Induced Changes in Expression, Including miR-378 which Promotes Adipogenesis. International journal of molecular sciences, 21 (4).10.3390/ijms21041492
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Vaughan Feisst, Hilary Sheppard, Tanvi Damani
  • Loef, E. J., Brooks, A. E. S., Lorenz, N., Birch, N. P., & Dunbar, P. R. (2020). Neuroserpin regulates human T cell-T cell interactions and proliferation through inhibition of tissue plasminogen activator. Journal of leukocyte biology, 107 (1), 145-158. 10.1002/jlb.2a1019-098rr
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Evert Loef, Rod Dunbar, Natalie Lorenz
  • Merry, T. L., Brooks, A. E. S., Masson, S. W., Adams, S. E., Jaiswal, J. K., Jamieson, S. M. F., & Shepherd, P. R. (2020). The CSF1 receptor inhibitor pexidartinib (PLX3397) reduces tissue macrophage levels without affecting glucose homeostasis in mice. International journal of obesity (2005), 44 (1), 245-253. 10.1038/s41366-019-0355-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Troy Merry, Jagdish Jaiswal, Stephen Jamieson
  • Gane, E., Verdon, D. J., Brooks, A. E., Gaggar, A., Nguyen, A. H., Subramanian, G. M., ... Dunbar, P. R. (2019). Anti-PD-1 blockade with nivolumab with and without therapeutic vaccination for virally suppressed chronic hepatitis B: A pilot study. Journal of hepatology, 71 (5), 900-907. 10.1016/j.jhep.2019.06.028
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rod Dunbar
  • Brooks, A. E., Verdon, D., Eom, J., Ng, J., Steemson, J., Lau, A. H., ... Poonia, B. (2019). PERIPHERAL IMMUNE RESPONSES TO TOLL-LIKE RECEPTOR 8 AGONIST GS-9688 IN PATIENTS WITH CHRONIC HEPATITIS B. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the American-Association-for-the-Study-of-Liver-Diseases (AASLD) / Liver Meeting, Boston, MA. 8 November - 12 November 2019. HEPATOLOGY. (pp. 2).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rod Dunbar

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 3018
New Zealand

Social links

Web links