Meet our Discovery Program heads

Director Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Professor John Carroll

John's research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of oocyte and early embryo development. The meiotic cell divisions in oocytes are prone to errors that lead to aneuploid embryos and a resultant increase in infertility, early embryo loss, miscarriage and genetic problems such as Down Syndrome. John's laboratory uses molecular biology and live-cell imaging techniques to investigate the dynamics of the meiotic cell divisions in living oocytes. His lab is also investigating the role of mitochondrial activity and localisation in controlling the fidelity of meiosis and why it goes awry, particularly in the case of maternal ageing.

John obtained his PhD from the University of Adelaide before moving to the MRC Experimental Embryology Unit in London. John moved to University College London (UCL) in 1996 where he held an MRC Fellowship and Lectureship in Cell Physiology. In 2004, John was appointed Professor and Head of Department of Physiology. From 2007 he became the Director of the UCL Division of Biosciences. Impressed with Monash's strength and depth in biomedical research, he joined Monash University in 2012 as the Head of School of Biomedical Sciences. In 2015, John has led the formation of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and very much looks forward to leading one of the region's most energetic biomedical research institutes.

Deputy Director Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Professor Dena Lyras

Dena is a world-leading researcher in infectious disease. Her research is focused on enteric pathogens, particularly those involved in antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Through the use of animal infection models her laboratory examines how these pathogens interact with the host and cause disease. Dena’s laboratory uses genetic approaches to understand how these micro-organisms harness regulatory and virulence factors in disease, and they are developing immunotherapeutics and small molecules to prevent and treat these infections in collaboration with industry partners.

Dena completed her PhD at LaTrobe University, specialising in microbial genetics and antimicrobial resistance. She continued studies in this area after joining Monash University, and has expanded her work to encompass the broad areas described above. She has also been inspiring students for more than 20 years, with active teaching roles in both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

She was appointed the President of the Australian Society of Microbiology in 2018, and serves as Chair of the Monash BDI Equity Committee. She believes strongly in inclusion and diversity, which aligns with the value of the Monash BDI ad Monash University more broadly. She was appointed as Deputy Director of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute in 2018.

Cancer Discovery Program Head, Professor Roger Daly

Roger's research focus is on mechanisms of growth factor receptor signal transduction and how they are dysregulated in cancer. Perturbations in cellular signalling play a fundamental role in human cancer and provide the rationale for many targeted therapies. Roger's group uses cutting-edge mass spectrometry-based proteomics to provide systems-level insights into cellular signalling networks and to identify novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers for poor prognosis cancers.

Roger was awarded his PhD from the University of Liverpool, UK before taking up positions as a postdoctoral fellow at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK, followed by New York University Medical Centre, New York, US. Roger established theSignal Transduction Group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 1993, and in 2013 he joined Monash University as the Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Cardiovascular Disease Discovery Program co-Heads, Professor Kate Denton and Associate Professor Chrishan Samuel

Professor Kate Denton

Kate is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow whose research focuses on improving the cardiovascular health of people across their lifespan. She’s building a strong interdisciplinary and translational research program focused on understanding integrative control of arterial pressure, with an emphasis on the role of the kidney. Kate’s current research aims to understand the long-term determinants of arterial pressure, including identifying the causes of hypertension to enable early disease prevention and reduce the devastating consequences of end-organ damage. Her studies encompass issues of sex-differences and age in blood pressure control. Kate’s research interrogates the natural history of disease progression, rather than that of accelerated disease models in young adults, to obtain clinically relevant results.

Following completion of her PhD studies at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Kate spent five years in Singapore. She worked in the Department of Pathology at the National University Hospital to understand how vasoactive factors control kidney function. After returning to Australia, she was awarded a High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia Fellowship. She received the Harry Goldblatt Award in Cardiovascular Research from the American Heart Association in 2004 for the best original research in that year. Her research demonstrated that hypertension of non-genetic origins can be passed across generations by the mother. She established an independent research laboratory in the Department of Physiology at Monash University in 2007. In 2008, she was awarded an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, Level A, and was promoted to Level B in 2013. Currently, she leads a 20-strong research team, with expertise in renal and cardiovascular physiology.

Associate Professor Chrishan Samuel

Chrishan’s research focuses on developing novel therapies and therapeutic strategies for the fibrosis (organ scarring) that results from a failed wound-healing response to tissue injury, and which is a key contributor to tissue dysfunction and failure. Using human cells and experimental models of heart, kidney and airway/lung disease, Chrishan's work examines the anti-fibrotic potential of various peptides, stem cells, stem cell-derived exosomes, epithelial repair factors and combinations of peptide and stem cell/exosome therapies. His current work also involves identifying the molecular mechanisms of these emerging anti-fibrotics and comparing drug/cell efficacy to existing standard of care medication; and he has established several links with pharma to aid in the translation of his research program.

Chrishan received his PhD from the Howard Florey Institute, University of Melbourne in 1999. He then completed his initial postdoctoral training at Stanford University and the Molecular Medicine Research Institute (California, USA), before returning to the Howard Florey Institute in 2001 and establishing the Fibrosis Laboratory in 2002. In 2011, he was recruited as a Group Leader to the Department of Pharmacology at Monash University, where he became the Deputy Head of Department (Research) in 2017.

Development and Stem Cells Discovery Program co-Heads,
Associate Professor Helen Abud and Professor Ian Smyth

Associate Professor Helen Abud

Helen’s research is centred on understanding the molecular mechanisms and environmental influences that regulate stem cells within normal tissues and tumours.  She has a particular interest in molecules that promote intestinal development, regulate stem cells during regeneration following damage, and how these factors may be altered during degenerative diseases, aging and colon cancer.  Helen’s group utilises cutting-edge human organoid models and genetic mouse models for a variety of biological studies including response to drug treatments and environment.

Following her undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne, Helen trained at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute before undertaking her doctorate at Oxford University, United Kingdom in Cell and Developmental Biology. This was followed by postdoctoral training in the Department of Anatomy (Oxford), Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (Melbourne). She obtained her academic appointment at Monash in 2007 and combines teaching with research. Helen is the Director of the Monash BDI Organoid Program and Vice President of the Australian Society for Stem Cell Research.

Professor Ian Smyth

Ian is a developmental biologist and NHMRC Senior Research Fellow. His group is interested in understanding how the kidney forms and how diseases of the organ arise; either through inherited mutation or altered fetal environment.  This work focuses on understanding the cellular basis of congenital defects and conditions like polycystic kidney disease (PKD), in which normal homeostasis of the renal tubules is disrupted. These studies are paired with projects examining how the kidney forms in the embryo.  He works closely with KidGen, a national network of renal genetics clinics, which aims to provide genomic diagnoses to individuals affected by inherited kidney disease.  As part of this program, Ian’s group plays a central role in using organismal models to characterise novel disease genes.

Ian received his PhD from the University of Queensland, working with Brandon Wainwright to clone genes involved in inherited cancer and developmental syndromes. He then trained in the US and UK with Ian Jackson, Monica Justice, Fiona Watt and Peter Scambler, spearheading efforts using mouse genetics to understand gene function. Ian established his own group at Monash University in 2007.

Infection & Immunity Discovery Program Head, Professor Jamie Rossjohn

Jamie is an NHMRC Australia Fellow at Monash University. The focus of his laboratory is to define the key molecular interactions underlying receptor recognition events central to innate and adaptive immunity. His team and colleagues have revealed how the pre-T-cell receptor (TCR) self-associates, and how the TCR specifically recognises polymorphic Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) molecules in the context of protective immunity and immune dysfunction. Jamie has unearthed structural mechanisms of HLA polymorphism impacting on drug and food hypersensitivities,as well as Natural Killer cell receptor recognition. He has pioneered our molecular understanding of lipid-based immunity by T cells. Recently, he has provided a structural basis of how vitamin B metabolites can be presented and recognised by the immune system, thereby revealing an entirely new class of antigen in immunity. In recognition of Jamie's research leadership, he was awarded the 2003 ASBMB Roche Medal, 2004 Science Ministers Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, an ARC Federation Fellowship in 2006, the 2007 Australian Academy of Science Gottschalk medal, 2007 Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research, elected as a Fellow to the Australian Academy of Science in 2014, elected as a Fellow to the Learned Society of Walesin 2015 and, jointly with Professor James McCluskey, received the GSK Research Excellence Medal in 2015.

Jamie travelled over the border from Wales to undertake his first degree and PhD at Bath University. Subsequently, he was awarded a Royal Society Travel Fellowship to work at St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, firstly in the laboratory of Professor Michael Parker, and subsequently establishing his own laboratory within the Institute.The award of a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship launched Jamie's independent research career. Following his award, Jamie moved to Monash University in order to design, establish and head the Protein Crystallography Unit.

Metabolism, Diabetes & Obesity Discovery Program Head, Professor Tony Tiganis

Tony is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow whose international reputation is built around his expertise in the cell communication networks referred to as cellular signalling. His specific focus is on the roles of protein tyrosine phosphatases in tyrosine phosphorylation-dependent signalling pathways. He is the foremost authority on protein tyrosine phosphatases in Australia and an international leader in the field. His overall goal is to define the capacity of phosphatases to function as critical regulatory elements in signalling networks and tissue crosstalk. He leads a multidisciplinary research program with a focus on metabolism, obesity and type 2 diabetes, but his work also crosses into other health issues including autoimmunity and cancer.

Tony was educated at The University of Melbourne. He completed his PhD with Professor Bruce E. Kemp, St Vincent's Institute, Melbourne. In 1995 he was awarded an NHMRC C.J. Martin Fellowship and undertook post-doctoral training with Professor Nicholas K. Tonks at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY. He established an independent laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University in 2000 as an NHMRC RD. Wright Fellow and Monash University Logan Fellow. He was awarded an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (Level A) in 2005 and a NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship in 2010 that was subsequently renewed in 2015.

Neuroscience Discovery Program Head, Professor Marcello Rosa

Marcello's research is aimed at understanding how many subdivisions of the brain are responsible for vision, and what roles they play in this process. One area of focus is to identify how neurones function in different parts of the visual cortex, and how electrical activity influences perception. Recently, this line of investigation has expanded to include work on interactions between visual and auditory sensory processing, the use of visual information for controlling movement, and the development of brain-computer interfaces. Marcello also studies the consequences of brain lesions such as stroke, which impact on the ability of the brain to process information.

Marcello was awarded his PhD from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and was an NHMRC Research Fellow working with Professor Jack Pettigrew FRS and Professor Mike Calford at theUniversity of Queensland. He is currently the leader of the preclinical validation program in the ARC Special Research Initiative in Bionic Vision and Technology, which aims to develop a bionic eye based on direct brain stimulation, and Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence forIntegrative Brain Function (CIBF). Marcello is also the Deputy Head of the Department of Physiology and is involved in collaborative research with leading international laboratories in Europe, where he is a Fellow of the University of Bologna Institute of Advanced Studies; at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in theUS; and in Japan, where he was recently appointed as a Senior Visiting Scientist in the Riken Brain Sciences Institute.