Molecular Horizons Group leaders and fellows

Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen (Director)

Single-molecule biophysics: studying the fundamental processes of life, one molecule at a time. Development and use of single-molecule manipulation and visualization methods to study molecular processes. Strong interests in DNA replication and repair, protein folding and aggregation, and viral fusion.

Associate Professor Danielle Skropeta (Deputy Director)

Isolation / Structural Elucidation - marine natural products, novel anticancer and antiviral agents. Synthesis - Isatin-based anticancer agents, bioactive cyclic peptides, biomimetic natural product synthesis. Chemical Ecology - chemical deterrence, UV tolerance in Antarctic moss.

Professor Heath Ecroyd (Deputy Director)

The cellular heat shock response. Proteostasis and the role of the molecular chaperones in this process. Structure-function relationship of small heat shock proteins. The mechanism and prevention of protein aggregation association with diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Katrina Green (Executive Member)

Improving the lives of people living with chronic mental illness by investigating new pharmacotherapies to reduce symptoms, including cognitive deficits, and prevent the obesity and type 2 diabetes side-effects associated with commonly prescribed antipsychotic drugs. Katrina has a particular interest in incretin hormones and their analogues, as well as the cannabinoid and immune signalling systems.

Distinguished Professor David Adams

Membrane physiology, biophysics and neuropharmacology; the study of membrane receptor and ion channel function and modulation using molecular biological and electrophysiological techniques. Investigation of novel venom-derived peptides (conotoxins) that selectively target voltage-gated sodium, calcium and potassium channels, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, and G protein-coupled receptors, as potential therapeutics for the treatment of chronic pain.

Professor Jennifer Beck

Application of high-end mass spectrometry (MS) to understand fundamental processes in biology and to illustrate new applications of MS to biology and chemistry: understanding dynamic secondary structures of nucleic acids at telomeres to elucidate the mechanism of telomerase; describing the molecular interactions in bacterial replisomes as targets for new antibiotics.

Professor Helen Blanchard

Structural glycobiology and structure-based drug design. Structure and function of carbohydrate-recognising proteins involved in disease progression. Design and synthesis of therapeutics including anti-cancer drugs and antivirals.

Distinguished Professor Nicholas Dixon 

Biological chemistry and protein structure and function. Protein-protein interactions in large dynamic molecular machines. The bacterial DNA replication machinery as a target for antibacterial drugs. New technologies for protein chemistry.

Professor Chao Deng

Neuropharmacological and epigenetic mechanisms underlying the clinical efficacy and metabolic side effects of antipsychotic drugs. Exploring pharmaceutical and exercise interventions for preventing obesity, dyslipidaemia, and type 2 diabetes associated with medications. Long-lasting effects of early drug (i.e. antipsychotics) or environmental (such as, radiofrequency electromagnetic energy) exposure on brain development and behaviours in animal models.

Dr Carolyn Dillon

Medicinal inorganic chemistry and synchrotron radiation techniques (microprobe XRF, XAS and IR microspectroscopy). Primary research projects involve the investigations of the anti-cancer properties of arsenic and bismuth complexes, understanding the metabolism and uptake of these complexes by cancer cells, and the development of more selective anti-cancer agents.

Professor Mark Dowton

Mitochondrial genome biology, recombination in mitochondria, evolutionary relationships among Hymenoptera, phylogenetic analysis and mitochondrial gene rearrangements.

Associate Professor Mirella Dottori

Understanding how to generate specific lineages of the nervous system from human pluripotent stem cells and create cellular models of the human nervous system. These models can be applied to study neurodevelopmental processes and also develop therapies to treat neurodegenerative conditions, particularly for Friedreich’s ataxia, peripheral sensory neuropathies and dementia.

Dr Shane Ellis

Development and applications of mass spectrometry imaging (MSI). Our research aims to develop state-of-the-art MSI methods to improve the spatial resolution, sensitivity and molecular specificity of MSI. These technologies are applied to study biochemical processes and changes occurring within spatially heterogeneous and cells. A core focus is o the field of lipidomics and studying altered lipid biochemistry occurring as a result of disease.

Senior Professor Xu-Feng Huang

Neuropathology and neuropharmacology of severe mental disorders, body weight control, and type 2 diabetes. Expertise in molecular neurobiology, receptor binding assays, beta imager analysis, animal models, cell culture, immunohistochemistry and histopathology.

Associate Professor Christopher Hyland

My group is interested in developing new transition metal-catalysed reactions for the synthesis of small organic molecules. We aim to develop tools for chemists to build complex molecules that may be used in new pharmaceuticals or materials. There is a particular focus on developing reactions that are efficient and selective so as to reduce waste and energy consumption. Through collaborations we also aim to harness synthetic chemistry to learn more about biological systems and develop potential new therapeutics.

Dr Slobodan Jergic

Protein structure and function. Bacterial DNA replication. Molecular genetics, protein expression and purification. Protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions in dynamic molecular machines. DNA replication as a target for antimicrobial drug development.

Professor Paul Keller

Design and synthesis of anti-viral drug-targets (HIV, dengue fever, chikungunya virus), new anti-bacterial agents targeting multidrug resistant microbes (c. difficile, VRE, MRSA) and the synthesis of radiolabelled markers for the early detection of Parkinson's disease. Natural products projects involving Antarctic mosses, Indonesian epiphytes, Bhutanese traditional medicine'.

Professor Michael Kelso

Medicinal chemistry, drug design and synthesis, structure-based drug design, prodrug design and synthesis, anti-tumour agents, anti-microbial agents, DNA binding anthracyclines, biofilm dispersing agents, catalytic asymmetric synthesis.

Dr Celine Kelso

My research focuses on utilising mass spectrometry and allied techniques (GC,HPLC and UPLC) to answer a range of different research questions, including analysis of biomolecules (DNA, Proteins) and small molecules.

Dr Jiamei Lian

Neuropsychopharmacological mechanisms underlying efficacy and metabolic side-effects of antipsychotic drugs using psychiatric animal models. The long-term effect of antipsychotic drugs in developing brain: implications for antipsychotic treatment in children and adolescents.

Dr Natalie Matosin

Neurobiology and genetics of mental illnesses including PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.Changes to the epigenome and transcriptome in mental illness. Contribution of stress and trauma to the development of mental illness. Refugee mental health and transgenerational transmission of trauma.

Professor Barbara Meyer

Lipid and fatty acid metabolism with a focus on omega-3 fats, in the areas of cardiovascular disease, mental health as well as healthy and complicated pregnancies.

Associate Professor Todd Mitchell

Role of lipids in development of various pathologies including insulin resistance, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cataract. Development of new mass spectrometric techniques for the analysis of lipids.

Associate Professor Spiros Miyakis

Main research focus is antimicrobial drug resistance and the molecular mechanisms that underlie microbial adaptation to antibiotics. Also has a particular interest in Medical Education and in Biostatistics,

Associate Professor Kelly Newell

Molecular mechanisms underlying psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, depression). Novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Glutamatergic system and its relevance to psychiatric illness. Implication of the metabotropic glutamate system in the pathology/treatment of psychiatric illness.

Associate Professor Aaron Oakley

Protein structure and function, protein evolution, drug discovery and DNA replication.

Associate Professor Lezanne Ooi

Regenerative medicine: Use of induced pluripotent stem cells in disease modelling and drug discovery. Global control of gene expression and protein function: transcriptional regulation and epigenetics. Neurodegenerative disease: effects of inflammation and oxidative stress on neuronal function. Identification of neuroprotective genes.

Senior Professor Stephen Pyne 

New methods for the asymmetric synthesis of bioactive molecules. The total synthesis of bioactive natural products, especially alkaloids. Natural products and fullerene chemistry.

Professor Stephen Ralph

Investigating interactions between metallointercalators and DNA. Nanofiltration using carbon nanotube membranes. Bioinorganic chemistry of metallodrugs. Molecular cages for metal Ions.

Professor Marie Ranson

The cell and molecular biology of cancer migration, invasion and metastasis with a particular focus on the urokinase plasminogen activation system (PAS) and the putative protective role of its inhibitor SerpinB2 (PAI-2) in cancer. Pre-clinical development of targeted anti-cancer drugs, as well as improved delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs. The plasminogen activation system in streptococcal infection.

Dr Christopher Richardson

Work uses both organic and inorganic chemistry and deals with molecular recognition, host-guest chemistry, sensing, catalysis and biomedical nanotechnology with a view toward potential use of these materials as catalysts, sensors, or agents of medicinal value.

Dr Andrew Robinson

Bacterial mutagenesis: single-molecule imaging and experimental evolution. Investigating the roles of error-prone DNA replication and repair processes in antibiotic resistance.

Associate Professor Martina Sanderson-Smith

Infectious disease and bacterial pathogenesis. Host-pathogen interactions, resistance to host innate immunity, role of the plasminogen activation system in infectious disease, identifying targets for therapeutic intervention. Encompasses aspects of microbiology, cell biology, immunology and molecular biology.

Associate Professor Sibylle Schwab

Genetics and epigenetic profiles of mental health disorders. Specific interests are studying the genetic architecture underlying the susceptibility to schizophrenia using large scale association studies and whole genome sequencing studies; studying epigenetic changes underlying depression and post traumatic stress disorders; increasing the population diversity in current large scale genetic studies.

Professor Ronald Sluyter

Immunology and cell signalling. The roles of P2X receptors and purinergic signalling in human and canine health and disease. Cell and molecular biology techniques.

Dr Gokhan Tolun

The main main area of interest is studying bio-nano-machines carrying out processes involving nucleic acids, such as DNA recombination, replication, repair, and RNA transcription. My multi-disciplinary research group utilizes Molecular imaging (Electron microscopy), Structural biology (cryo-EM), Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In addition to the state-of-the-art cryo-EM, we also use the classical EM techniques such as shadow-casting (i.e., metal shadowing) and negative staining.

Professor Adam Trevitt

The Trevitt research group studies the laser photoactivation and photochemistry of ions – this includes ion/radical reactions and photodissociation spectroscopy. We combine ion trap mass spectrometry with tunable UV–Vis lasers to better understand photostability and photodissociation of chromophores (including the effect of protonation isomers). We also study ion/radical reactions with neutral molecules to better understand and predict radical chemistry relevant to reactive environments.

Dr Kara Vine-Perrow

Ligand-directed targeted drugs for the treatment of malignant disease. Improved delivery platforms for chemotherapeutic drugs. Development of novel microtubule targeting drugs. Combination anti-cancer therapy and overcoming MDR mechanisms.

Dr Debbie Watson

Immunology, genetics and transplantation. Developing therapeutic strategies to prevent graft-versus-host disease and improve outcomes for people with blood cancer. Immunological, cell and molecular techniques.

Professor Mark Wilson

Extracellular chaperones and their roles in extracellular proteostasis and disease. Roles of chaperones redirected from the endoplasmic reticulum in Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Fluorescence analysis techniques (flow cytometry, confocal microscopy).

Professor Justin Yerbury

Protein misfolding, aggregation and neurodegenerative disease. Protein aggregation and neuro-inflammation. Propagation of protein misfolding. Protein homeostasis and Motor Neurone Disease.

Associate Professor Haibo Yu

Our group is interested in developing and applying theoretical and computational tools to understand the structure-dynamics-function relationship in complex (bio)molecular systems. Current research projects include computational studies of protein-ligand interactions, mechanistic studies of cofactor-independent oxygenase and carbohydrate-active enzymes.