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 Head, Professor Kate Denton

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.

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

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 co-Heads, Professor Ana Traven and Professor Stephen Turner

Professor Ana Traven

Ana’s research aims to understand how metabolism shapes host-pathogen interactions and infection outcomes. She studies this question in the context of human fungal infections. Fungal pathogens have become prominent killers and also cause a large number of debilitating conditions. By combining imaging, molecular genetics, ‘omics’ approaches and animal infection models, her team discovered metabolic and host cell death programs that control immune interactions of fungal pathogens, and provided insights into the pathogenic transitions of fungi and their susceptibility to antifungal therapies. In addition to this fundamental work, the lab has been collaborating with chemists and engineers for therapeutic approaches to fungal infections, and is venturing into the increasingly important area of Antimicrobial Resistance by studying the emerging fungal ‘superbug’ Candida auris. Ana’s research contributions have been recognised by the Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (2018) and an ARC Future Fellowship (2019).

Ana did her postgraduate training at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute in Zagreb and the University of Toronto, and obtained her PhD from the University of Zagreb in 2002. Supported by a Peter Doherty Training Fellowship from the NHMRC, she performed her postdoctoral work at the St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, where she used the yeast system to study posttranscriptional gene regulation in the DNA damage response. She transitioned into the field of medical mycology following a brief sabbatical in the Department of Microbiology at Columbia University on an HFSP Short-Term Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2009, Ana was recruited to Monash University to establish her independent research program.

Professor Stephen Turner

Stephen is a NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and Head of the Department of Microbiology at the Monash BDI. He was awarded his PhD in viral immunology from Monash University in 1997. Stephen worked with Professor Janet Ruby at the University of Melbourne (1997-2002) studying poxvirus pathogenesis. He then joined the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Professor Peter Doherty (St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, USA) to work on influenza virus-specific T cell immunity. He returned to the University of Melbourne in 2002, was awarded an NHMRC RD Wright Fellowship in 2005 establishing his own research group.

Stephen was awarded a Pfizer Australia Senior Research Fellowship in 2007 and an ARC Future Fellowship in 2012. His research interests use a combination of structural biology, genomics, systems biology, recombinant viral technology and cellular immunology to examine molecular factors that impact T cell responses to virus infection.

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.