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Purcell Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Professor Tony Purcell

I completed my Bachelor of Science Degree with Honours under the supervision of Professors Milton Hearn and Mibel Aguilar here at Monash University in 1987. I continued these studies into my PhD. During this time I was interested in protein and peptide separation and more and more in the very sensitive detection and characterisation of peptides. This inevitably led to the use of mass spectrometry in the pre-proteomics era.

Following on from this I spent a year in John Wallace's lab at the University of Adelaide, Biochemistry Department, studying biotin ligases and pyruvate carboxylase. This led to an appreciation of enzymology and molecular biology. In 1994 I joined Professor Jim McCluskey's laboratory then at Flinders University and began a fascination with immune recognition and the key role peptides play in modulating health and disease. I soon found that my skills in analytical biochemistry and mass spectrometry had found the perfect niche.

Over 20 years later I still have a long list of unanswered questions about immune recognition of peptides and other biomolecules. In 1997 I moved to the University of Melbourne as a senior post-doctoral fellow in Jim's new lab in the Microbiology and Immunology Department. In 2003 I was awarded a CR Roper Fellowship and began a path to independent research. Around this time I also began to acquire some serious mass spectrometry infrastructure and began in earnest to apply cutting edge mass spectrometry techniques to key questions in immunology and of course biochemistry in general. In 2005 I moved to the Bio21 Institute as the Grimwade Senior Research Fellow in the Biochemistry Department at University of Melbourne. In 2008 I was awarded an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship and in 2009 I was appointed as a Reader in the same Department. In July 2012, I effectively came home back to Monash as Head of Quantitative Proteomics under the Talent Enhancement Scheme as a Larkin's Professorial Fellow. In 2015 I became Deputy Head of Department (Research).

You can read my publicly available CV here.

Our research

Current projects

  1. Understanding the relationship between cellular stress and antigen presentation (type 1 diabetes and infectious disease)
  2. Allergic responses to drugs: new mechanisms and targeted interventions
  3. Understanding host-virus interactions and the design of novel anti-virals (HIV, influenza)
  4. What causes autoimmune disease (diabetes, arthritis, psoriasis)?
  5. Cancer immunology – neoepitopes, check point blockade and the anti-tumour immune response

Visit Professor Purcell's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

The Purcell laboratory is housed within the $280 million STRIP (Science and Technology Research and Innovation Precinct) biomedical research hub at Monash University, Clayton Campus. The Purcell laboratory currently houses five state of the art mass spectrometers and a critical mass of expert users including nine post-doctoral fellows, two research assistants and eight PhD students. The laboratory is collocated with the research-intensive arm of the $4 million Biomedical Proteomics Facility which includes additional instrumentation and several qualified operators and three full time post-doctoral bioinformaticians.

The Purcell laboratory specialises in targeted and global quantitative proteomics of complex biological samples with a particular focus on targets of immunity in infection, cancer, allergy and autoimmunity. The laboratory has an outstanding track record in delivering high end outcomes including recent publications in highly regarding peer reviewed journals including Nature, Nature Immunol, Science Immunol, Nature Comms, Nat Protocols, Nat Struct Mol Biol, PNAS, Mol Cell Proteomics, Proteomics, J Proteomics Res, J Biol Chem.

Our lab's focus areas

Next Generation Proteomics:
We are developing novel targeted approaches for the analysis of complex samples which include precursor scanning approaches, multiple reaction monitoring, data independent acquisition techniques such as SWATH MS and peptide barcoding approaches.

Studies of the immunopeptidome in health and disease:
The major focus of our lab is studying the peptides liberated from pathogens, self proteins and tumor proteins that are presented on the cell surface for scrutiny by T lymphocytes. The following areas are under active investigation.

Viral antigen presentation:

  • Influenza (in context of universal vaccine development, immunodominance, indigenous health)
  • HIV (in context of T cell epitopes in long term non progressors, T cell epitopes derived from alternative transcripts)
  • Vaccinia Virus (in context of immunodominance, quantitation of viral antigen presentation)

Self-antigen presentation:

  • Tolerance and graft rejection
  • Autoimmunity and HLA haplotypes
  • Post-translationally modified antigens and their role in autoimmune diseases (diabetes, MS, arthritis)
  • The link between bacterial infection and autoimmunity


  • Novel cancer specific antigens for next generation vaccine design
    • Melanoma
    • Breast Cancer
    • Colon Cancer
    • Mesothelioma
  • Driver mutations and immunotherapy of paediatric brain cancer


Mammalian Cell culture
Human T cell immunology
Flow cytometry
Protein Chemistry
Mass Spectrometry

Disease focuses and models

Melanoma (human and mouse models)
Breast (human and mouse models)
Colon (human)
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG - human)
Mesothelioma (human and mouse models)

Type 1 diabetes (human and mouse models)
Ankylosing spondylitis (human)
Psoriasis (human and mouse models)
Rheumatoid arthritis (human and mouse models)

HLA-linked hypersensitivity reactions to pharmaceuticals (e.g. hypersensitivity reactions to anti-epileptics, anti-retrovirals, penicillins)

Role of anti-viral T cells in graft rejection, basic models of immune tolerance (human and mouse)

Infectious disease:
Influenza (human and mouse models)
HIV (human)
Vaccinia virus (mouse models)


We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. Some of our more significant national and international collaborators are listed below. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

National collaborators:
J McCluskey, University of Melbourne
N La Gruta, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
D Hatters,  University of Melbourne  
J Rossjohn, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
W Chen, Latrobe
T Lithgow, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
M Wilce, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
R Norton, Monash
S Mannering, St Vincent’s Institute
R Thomas, University of Queensland
D Tscharke, ANU
A Kenna, Queensland University of Technology
T Kotsimbos, Alfred Hospital
K Kedzierska, University of Melbourne
J Li, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute 
M Shackleton, Alfred Hospital
A Behrens, J Cebon, Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute
M Jenkins, WEHI
J Hansford, Royal Melbourne Hospital
E Segalov, Monash Medical Centre
I  Caminschi, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
B Robinson, J Creaney University of Western Australia
J Song, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute
M Lahoud, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute 
P Kwan, Alfred Hospital
PC Ke, Monash
P Hertzog, Hudson Institute
R Kitching, Monash
R Schittenhelm, Monash
W Heath, University of Melbourne

International collaborators:
B Olivera, University of Utah, USA
N Ternette, Oxford University, UK
C Hunter, SCIEX Ltd, USA
A Huhmer, ThermoScientific, USA
T Elliott,  University  of Southampton UK
V Cerundolo, Oxford University UK
P Bowness, Oxford University  UK
L Fugger,  Oxford University UK
H Safavi-Hemami, Copenhagen University, Denmark
J Kringelum, C Garde & T Trolle Evaxion Biotech, Denmark
E Jappe, Technical University of Denmark
A Handel, University of Chicago, USA
P Thomas,  St. Jude Children's Research Hospital , USA
J Sidney, A Sette, B Peters La Jolla Institute for Immunology, USA
M Nielsen, Technical University of Denmark
T Dilorenzo, Albert Einstein University NYC, USA
D Naisbitt, University of Liverpool, UK
L Wang, National University of Singapore
B Roep, City of Hope Hospital, Chicago USA
D Price, University of Cardiff, UK
A Godkin, University of Cardiff, UK
E Caron, University of Montreal, Canada
M Peakman, Kings College London, UK

Student research projects

The Purcell Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short-term research opportunities available. You are encouraged to contact Professor Tony Purcell regarding potential projects that align with the presented research themes.