School of Molecular Sciences

Biological chemistry

Research at the interface of biology and chemistry is revolutionising our understanding of the mechanisms of life, and enabling us to create new therapeutics and biotechnological tools.

Carbohydrate chemistry and chemical glycobiology: Dr Keith Stubbs
Glycobiology is the study of the structures and roles of carbohydrates in biology. Carbohydrates are present in every living system and traditionally, have been known for their role in structural integrity and as energy sources.
Cell Biology and Lactation: Dr Foteini Kakulas
During pregnancy and lactation, the mammary gland remodels into an organ capable of synthesising and secreting copious amounts of breastmilk to meet the nutritional, developmental and immunological needs of the infant. The Cell Biology team focuses on the maternal cells of breastmilk, including stem cells and immune cells, and their involvement in health and disease for both the breastfed infant and the lactating mother. The roles of breastmilk stem cells for the offspring and their potential use in regenerative medicine are also investigated, along with cellular components such as microRNAs.

In addition, the team uses molecular biology tools to understand the causes of cancer and develop novel non-invasive therapies for this disease, including examination of the anti-cancer properties of breastmilk

Computational and theoretical chemistry: Dr Amir Karton
During the past decade, computational chemistry has had an increasingly important impact on almost all branches of chemistry as a powerful approach for solving chemical problems at the molecular level.

The increasing computational power provided by supercomputers and the emergence of highly accurate theoretical procedures make contemporary computational chemistry one of the most detailed 'microscopes' currently available for examining the atomic and electronic details of molecular processes.

In my lab we use supercomputers in conjunction with very accurate theoretical methods to elucidate the reaction paths, kinetics, and the mechanisms in salient organic, organometallic and enzymatic systems.
Human Lactation Research Group: Dr Donna Geddes
Human milk is diverse fluid containing macronutrients, vitamins, hormones and live cells uniquely tailored for the human infant. A myriad of health benefits, both short and long term are conferred to both the mother and infant via human milk and lactation. Further early nutrition is implicated in the Developmental origins of Health and Disease (DoHaD).

This large research group combines a number of modalities including biochemistry, metabolomics, molecular biology, physiological measurements and ultrasound imaging to understand milk synthesis, milk removal from the breast, the effect of milk composition on both term and preterm infant gastric emptying, breastfeeding behaviour, appetite control and body composition.

Liver research: Professor George Yeoh
Our research group focuses on the biology of the liver progenitor cell (LPC) called an 'oval cell' which describes its shape. We envisage an enormous potential for this cell as the vehicle for cell and gene therapy to treat liver disease.
Mitochondrial Medicine and Biology: Aleksandra Filipovska
We investigate the genetic causes of diseases caused by mitochondrial dysfunction, analyse the molecular mechanisms that cause pathology in the diseases and develop therapeutics to combat mitochondrial dysfunction in disease.
Molecular Steroidogenesis: Associate Professor Robert Tuckey
Current research involves the metabolism of vitamins D2 and D3 by cytochrome P450scc, and the activation and inactivation of vitamin D by other mitochondrial-type cytochromes P450 including CYP27A1, CYP27B1 and CYP24. With collaborators we are trying to develop new forms of vitamin D which are non-toxic and have therapeutic potential for the treatment of immune disorders and cancer.
Nanobiotechnology: Professor Swaminatha Iyer
Nanobiotechnology is a branch of nanotechnology with biological and biochemical applications.
Our research explores the synthesis, characterisation and application of novel polymer based formulations for biomedical applications. Using surface chemistry on tailor polymers we aim to track and deliver payloads to image and improve the outcome in various medical emergencies.

Other lab group members: Dr Marck Norret, Dr Tristan Clemons 
Nanotechnology and therapeutic delivery: Dr Tristan Clemons
Our research focuses on the application of nanotechnology in biology for the treatment of a range of diseases and injuries. Our main focus is on the development of multifunctional nanoparticles or nanoformulations capable for the delivery of a range of therapeutics and applying these formulations in models of cancer, heart disease, wound healing and scarring.

Other lab group members: Professor Swaminatha Iyer
Natural products and chemical ecology: Dr Gavin Flematti
Agricultural activities often have (positive and negative) impacts on the environment. We study the interactions between farming and the environment. This includes how farmers respond to environmental changes, and how government policy can best address agro-environmental issues.

Our research covers climate change impacts on agriculture, land degradation, carbon storage on farms, perennial farming systems, salinity management, and more.
Plant Biology and Biochemistry: Dr Joshua Mylne
Plants have much more to offer us than solutions to our agricultural challenges. Plants provide an untapped resource of peptides and information relevant to human drugs.
Protein structure by X-ray crystallography: Professor Alice Vrielink
The studies in my lab focus on crystallographic analysis of a variety of proteins with the aim of using structural analysis to better understand their biology. The structural biology laboratory is well equipped with state of the art robotic crystallization equipment, X-ray diffraction equipment and computational facilities for structure solution and analysis. Cloning, expression and purification resources are also available in the laboratory in order to obtain sufficient quantities of protein for crystallographic studies. In addition we carry out kinetic and spectroscopic analyses to establish the quality of protein and pursue biochemical and biophysical studies to better correlate function with structure.
Secondary metabolite biosynthesis : Dr Yit-Heng Chooi
My research interests are on the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites in fungi and to uncover the bio-ecological roles of these molecules using a combination of functional genomics, synthetic biology and chemical ecology. The two current research themes are
  • unveiling small molecules involved in fungal pathogen-host interactions
  • improving the tools for translating microbial genomic information to bioactive molecules.
Structural biology: Professor Charles Bond
Structural Biology research involves building a three-dimensional picture of biological molecules to shed light on the molecular interactions and events which drive many of the fundamental processes of life.

Investigations in my lab address proteins of relevance to human health, including nucleic acid processing proteins involved in regulating gene expression, and enzymes essential to the survival of life-threatening microbes, which may be drug targets. Recent research from the Bond lab has received media attention locally, nationally and internationally.
Structure and function of enzymes: Professor Paul Attwood
My research is generally focused on the investigation of enzyme action and regulation at the molecular level. The two major aspects of my research are:
  1. the mechanism of catalysis of pyruvate carboxylase and its allosteric regulation
  2. the structure, function and mammalian cell biology of histidine kinases.
Synthetic Biology: Associate Professor Oliver Rackham
Synthetic biology is a burgeoning new field focused on designing and building new biomolecules, biological networks and systems for useful purposes. Our research focuses on re-engineering bacteria and yeast for use as microscopic drug factories, and the manipulation of mammalian gene expression.
Synthetic chemistry: Professor Murray Baker
We aim to apply our skills in synthesis to problems in areas such as catalysis, nanotechnology, surface science, biological chemistry/medicine, polymer science, molecular recognition, and sensors.
Synthetic chemistry: Dr Scott Stewart
Research interests include the construction of biologically active natural products utilising modern organic synthetic methods.
Synthetic organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry and chemical biology: Associate Professor Matthew Piggott
Our expertise in organic and medicinal chemistry is applied to the design and synthesis of therapeutic drug candidates and small molecule probes to help investigate complex biological systems. We have several active collaborations with more biologically orientated scientists and opportunities for cross-disciplinary projects exist.

The synthesis of biologically active natural products and novel aromatic molecules with potential applications in organic electronics, supramolecular chemistry, and as components of molecular machines are other areas of interest.

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