Johnston Research Group

Angus Johnston

Dr Angus Johnston

Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow

Tel: 9903 9263

ResearcherID: A-9254-2011


Angus Johnston is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He completed his undergraduate and PhD studies at the University of Queensland, and worked at the University of Melbourne before moving to Monash University in 2013. Angus' NanoMaterials for  Biology  Group  (NanoMB)  is  focused  on  understanding  the  interactions  of  nanomaterials  with  biological  systems.  In  particular  his  group is interested in taking inspiration from nature to develop the next generation of drug delivery vehicles. These drug delivery systems have the potential to  limit  the  harmful  side  effects  of  drugs  while  also  protecting  them  from  degradation  by  the  body.  Angus is a CI in the ARC CoE in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology and his research program is funded by the ARC and NHMRC. He has published more than 60 peer reviewed papers which have been cited  more  than  3000  times.  He  has  supervised  7  PhD  students  who  following  their  graduation  have  found  work in academia, patent law, management consulting and industry.

Project Areas

My group is focused on developing a fundamental understanding of how nanoengineered materials interact with biological systems. The goal of this work is to develop improved methods of drug and vaccine delivery in the field of nanomedicine. Our work falls into three main areas:

1) Developing novel drug carriers that respond to biological stimuli

2) Investigating the targeting, internalization, trafficking and release of drugs from nanoparticles in living cells

3) Developing molecular sensors to understand the local environment that the nanoparticles are exposed to in the cells

Nanoparticle Synthesis

In recent years there has been significant advances in vaccine technology to treat diseases such as HIV, flu and cancer. However, a number of these new vaccines are limited in their in vivo activity as they degraded too readily by the body. Encapsulating the vaccine in nanoparticles protects the vaccine  from  degradation  and  can  target  it  to  specific  immune  cells.  We  have  developed  a  new  self-assembling  polymer system which allows us to control the size and degradability by altering the composition of the particles. We are also exploring molecular cloning techniques to synthesize proteins that self assemble  into  drug  delivery  vehicles.

Nanoparticle synthesis

Understanding Cellular Processing of Nanoengineered Capsules

The therapeutic effect of most drugs occurs in specific locations within the cell, so the intracellular fate of drugs is vital. Nanoengineered materials are increasingly being used to deliver novel therapeutics, however the cellular processing of these nanoengineered materials is not well understood.  We  aim  to  understand  the  mechanisms  of  how  nanocapsules  enter  cells  and  look  at  the  role  that particle size, surface functionality and targeting molecules play in this process. This work will have implications for improved vaccine and gene therapy, particularly for diseases such as HIV and cancer.

Understanding Cellular Processing of Nanoengineered Capsules

Molecular Sensors

One of the main challenges of understanding how nanomaterials interact with cells is determining exactly where the material is located inside the cell. Cells contain hundreds of sub-compartments that have different chemical and enzymatic environments, and understanding what these environments are like  is  critical  to  designing  materials  that  will  respond  in  a  desirable  fashion  once  they  are  inside  the cell. Our work in this area focuses on developing molecular sensors that can probe the chemical environment inside the cells (pH, redox potential etc), the uptake of nanoparticles and their trafficking  to  specific  locations  in  the  cells.

Molecular Sensors

Recent Significant Publications

1. Liu, H.; Johnston, A. P. R. "A Programmable Sensor to Probe the Internalization of Proteins and Nanoparticles in Live Cells" Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 52: 5744-5748, 2013.

2. Mintern, J. D.; Percival, C.; Kamphuis, M. M. J.; Chin, W. J.; Caruso, F.; Johnston, A. P. R. "Targeting Dendritic Cells: The Role of Specific Receptors in the Internalization of Polymer Capsules" Adv. Health. Mater. 2013, 2, 940.

3. Johnston, A. P. R.; Kamphuis, M. M. J.; Such, G. K.; Scott, A. M.; Nice, E. C.; Heath, J. K.; Caruso, F. "Targeting Cancer Cells: Controlling the Binding and Internalization of Antibody- Functionalized Capsules." ACS Nano 2012, 6, 6667.

4. Johnston, A. P. R.; Such, G. K.; Ng, S. L.; Caruso F. "Challenges facing colloidal delivery systems: From synthesis to the clinic" Curr. Opin. Colloid Interface Sci. 2011, 16, 171.

5. Kamphuis, M. M. J.; Johnston, A. P. R.; Such, G. K.; Dam, H. H.; Evans, R. A.; Scott, A. M.; Nice, E. C.; Heath, J. K.; Caruso, F. "Targeting of Cancer Cells Using Click-Functionalized Polymer Capsules." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132,  15881.

Full publication list:

Group Members

Major Collaborating Laboratories: Dr Bim Graham, Dr Justine Mintern (University of Melbourne), Prof Rob Parton (University of Queensland), Dr Georgina Such (University of Melbourne) Dr Natalie Trevaskis.

Post Docs: Dr Christina Cortez, Dr Daniel Yuen

Research Assistants: Ewa Czuba, Sarah Mann

PhD Students: Laura FitzGerald, Haiyin Liu, Adelene Wong, Elton Wong

Current Major Funding

ARC CoE (CE140100036): Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (2014-2020)

NHMRC Project Grant (1062549): Understanding the cellular processing of nanoparticles for improved therapeutic outcomes (2014-2016)

ARC Future Fellowship (FT110100265): Bridging the Interface between Nanoengineered Materials and Biological Systems (2012-2015)