Monash BDI scientist honoured by prestigious US fellowship

Professor Ana Traven has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology
Professor Ana Traven has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

Professor Ana Traven’s ground-breaking research into pathogenic fungal diseases and contribution to the field has been recognised by her election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Professor Traven was among 65 fellows elected to the Class of 2022 last month. The Academy is the ASM’s honorific leadership group and a think-tank. Fellowships are awarded annually through nomination.

Professor Traven, who heads the Infection Program at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute(BDI), said she was thrilled to be elected to the Academy.

“It felt great to be awarded this, it’s an honour,” Professor Traven said. “The election process is selective and done by some of the best microbiologists in the field internationally, so it’s a very nice thing to get this sort of recognition from my international colleagues,” she said.

In congratulating Professor Traven, Monash BDI Director Professor John Carroll said:

"I am delighted for Ana to be recognised in this way by her international peers.  As well as being a highly innovative scientist, Ana leads the BDI Infection Program of over 200 scientists who are dedicated to helping us to live at peace with the world of microbes, arguably the biggest single threat to our future health. There is no-one more deserving."

Professor Traven’s work in mycology explores the mechanisms by which fungi cause life-threatening human infections. “My lab has made discoveries in understanding how metabolism in particular plays a role in fungal diseases, in the response of the immune system to fungi, and in the ability of fungi to mount an infection.

“There’s a growing appreciation that we have underestimated the threat that fungal disease can pose to people,” she said.

It is estimated that 1.5 million people die every year from fungal infections including those occurring in hospital settings, which compromise the success of medical interventions to treat cancer and other serious human diseases.

Compared to antibiotics, there are far fewer classes of drugs that can be used against fungi, Professor Traven said.

“Drug-resistant superbugs in the fungal world are emerging, such as Candida auris. We don’t know exactly why this fungus emerged as a human pathogen in 2009, but environmental factors due to climate change have been proposed as one possibility. In my lab we have recently set up a research program focused on understanding how Candida auris could be inhibited,” she said.

Professor Traven said she was part of a push among scientists around the world to shine a light on the increasingly pressing problem of drug-resistant fungi. Nationally, she has been part of leading efforts within the Australian Society for Microbiology and the Victorian Infection and Immunity Network to promote mycology as a key research area in infectious diseases.

Building knowledge for new antifungal strategies is also a central component of the Monash-Warwick Alliance Training Program in Antimicrobial Resistance that Professor Traven is leading together with colleagues at the University of Warwick. This program will train the next generation of researchers to tackle this important problem.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning seven discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection, Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia.  Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.