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Group Leader

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Dr Chengxue Helena Qin

Dr Chengxue Helena Qin is the Head of the Cardiovascular Pharmacology Laboratory and a National Heart Foundation Future Fellow at Monash University. She holds concurrent adjunct appointments at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and the University of Melbourne. Dr Qin is an emerging translational pharmacologist with an upward career trajectory and combined expertise in rational drug design, medicinal chemistry and pre-clinical models of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Qin completed her and B.BioMed. and PhD at the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, and School of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne in 2010, before taking up a post-doctoral position at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in 2011.A short time later, in 2017 Dr Qin was promoted to group leader and awarded a 5-year Baker Fellowship in the same year. She has recently been recruited to the Drug Discovery Biology Theme at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Monash University Parkville Campus) to establish her independent laboratory.

Her current research focuses on formyl peptide receptors, a group of G-Protein-Coupled-Receptors involved in modulation of the inflammatory response. Dr Qin provided the first evidence that selectively engaging beneficial pathways at this receptor using an approach called ‘biased agonism’ has significant therapeutic and translational potential. Her group is developing novel drugs on this patented technology, in several therapeutic areas. Dr Qin and her lab hope to develop medicines with superior efficacy and minimal side effects to more effectively treat a broad range of cardiovascular diseases, impacting millions of individuals around the globe.

Helena was selected as one of  the top 100 Australian scientists by MPTConnect to complete their Bridge (focus on drug development) and Bridgetech (focus on medical device development) programs. This training in commercialization will be invaluable to facilitate her technology in translation from the 'bench to bedside' (or equip her with essential complementary skills to drive her research towards clinical use). Apart from Helena’s excellent research achievements, she is a strong advocate for equity and diversity for biomedical research, encouraging women and Asian-Australians to break through the “bamboo ceiling”, to take up leadership positions.

View Dr. Chengxue Helena Qin's AWARDS AND FUNDING.

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Group Members

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Professor Owen  Woodman

Prof. Owen Woodman has a BSc (Hons) (1974) and PhD (1981) from the University of Melbourne. He has more than 30 years of experience in research into the function of the cardiovascular system and the adverse effects of disease, working at institutions including Harvard University and the University of Melbourne (Departments of Pharmacology, Physiology and Medicine [Austin Hospital]) before joining RMIT University in 2007 where he was Professor of Cell Biology and Head of the Discipline of Cell Biology and Anatomy in the School of Health & Biomedical Sciences until March 2018.

He is now Professor (Research) in the Heart Failure Pharmacology laboratory at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and also Professorial Research Fellow at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. He has a particular interest in the development of new drugs for the treatment of acute myocardial infarction and vascular disease, including diabetes-induced vascular pathologies and has published 140 papers on cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology. He is one of the inventors on several patents relating to synthetic flavonols for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. His work in conjunction with colleagues from the Howard Florey Institute and the School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne has formed the basis of work towards the commercial development of cardioprotective drugs by the biotechnology company Armaron Bio Pty Ltd (armaronbio.com) for which he is the Chief Scientific Officer.

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Dr Tara Scott, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Tara completed her Bachelor of Science with 1st class honours in the Department of Pharmacology at Monash University in 2015 after which she moved London, UK and took up at research assistant position at the William Harvey Research Institute (WHRI) in 2016. The following year she was awarded an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship and commenced her PhD investigating the role of the NLRP3 inflammasome as a novel approach to treat pulmonary hypertension (PH) and was subsequently awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission UK (and concurrently offered an Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship from the Australian Government). This scholarship enabled her to undertake her PhD as a joint research venture between the WHRI and the Department of Pharmacology at Monash University, spending half of her time at each Institute.

Tara has recently submitted her PhD thesis and is joined the Cardiovascular Pharmacology (CVP) Laboratory at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences as a post-doctoral research fellow to help lead the exciting new pulmonary hypertension research program examining the potential of biased FPR agonists as pharmacotherapy for PH. Tara has been awarded a number of prestigious prizes including the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia/American Heart Association student oral presentation award (2018), Commonwealth Scholarship (2017-2018) and a Graduate Women Victoria award (2019). Tara also created the CVP laboratory website.

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Anida Velagic, PhD Student

Anida completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at Monash University in 2017. The following year, she commenced her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Rebecca Ritchie, A/Prof. Barbara Kemp-Harper and Dr. Chengxue Helena Qin. Anida was awarded a Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship, and a Monash Graduate Excellence Scholarship (MGES) from Monash University to complete her doctoral program.

Anida’s research focuses on the use of the novel therapeutic, nitroxyl, to circumvent impairments in cardiovascular nitric oxide signaling in type 2 diabetes. Anida hopes that her research will provide further insight into the therapeutic potential of nitroxyl donors to treat cardiovascular complications in individuals with type 2 diabetes. When Anida isn’t in the lab, she spends her time enjoying food, getting outdoors and catching up on anime. The latter hobby, comprised of watching Dr. Stone, is part of what inspires Anida to become a great scientist.

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Mandy Li, PhD Student

Mandy is a current PhD student investigating renin-angiotensin system targets and novel therapeutics for hypertension and diabetes, under the supervision of Prof. Robert Widdop, Dr. Tracey Gaspari and Dr. Chengxue Helena Qin. In 2018 she completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Honours) at Monash University, before working as a research assistant for Prof. Rebecca Ritchie in the Heart Failure Pharmacology Lab at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. When she’s not in the lab following protocols, Mandy can be found at home following recipes for baking cakes. She also loves illustrating and graphic design and hopes to one day create both beautiful diagrams and delicious cakes.

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Selena Peng, Research Assisstant

Selena completed her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne in 2018 where she majored in pharmacology. She has recently completed her Master’s project with Professor Rebecca Ritchie and Dr. Chengxue Helena Qin in 2020 on characterising an alternative murine model for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). She is currently working as a research assistant in the Cardiovascular Pharmacology laboratory.

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Ting Fu, Master's Student

Ting joined the Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Heart Failure Pharmacology laboratories at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences as a Master’s student in 2019. In 2015, Ting completed her undergraduate from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine in China. She worked as a Medical Science Liaison in Sinopharm Medicine Holding Shaanxi Co. Ltd., from 2015-2018, which is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in China. She started her Master’s project with Professor Rebecca Ritchie and Dr. Chengxue Helena Qin in 2019 on the therapeutic potential of a lipid mediators in cardiometabolic disease.

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Yen Zhi Ng, Honours Student

Yen completed his Bachelor of Science with a major in Pharmacology at Monash University in 2019. He joined the Cardiovascular Pharmacology Laboratory in 2020 to undertake an Honours project supervised by Dr. Chengxue Helena Qin (Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences), Dr. Kristy Jackson and Prof. Geoff Head (Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute). Yen's current research focuses on the role of the Annexin A1 - Formyl Peptide Receptor signalling axis in hypertension.

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Key Collaborators

Professor Rebecca Ritchie

Professor Ritchie is the Theme Leader of the Drug Discovery Biology Theme in the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), head of the Heart Failure Pharmacology Laboratory and holds an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship. Professor Ritchie is internationally-recognised for her contributions to cardiac pharmacology. Her translationally-focused research objective is the identification of new treatment strategies for arresting the progression of heart failure, particularly in the context of diabetes and myocardial infarction. Professor Ritchie’s PhD focused on predictors of myocardial function in vivo in patients with ischaemic heart disease (University of Adelaide 1990–94), including development of the first quantitative model of the force-interval relationship in human myocardium. Her postdoctoral training — Wayne State University 1995–97, USA and the Florey Institute 1997–2002 — preceded her recruitment to the Baker Institute in late 2002. She has numerous relevant preclinical in vivo models of diabetic (T1D, T2D), ischaemic, and other cardiomyopathies in her laboratory.

The research achievements of Professor Ritchie to date include almost 100 career publications and continuous peer-reviewed funding since 1999 (comprising support from NHMRC, Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation). Her contributions to cardiac pharmacology have been recognised by the 2012 Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists (ASCEPT) Achievement Award, the 2013 Diabetes Australia Millenium-Type 1 Diabetes Award, and election as a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2013. Her international profile in her chosen field has been further recognised by numerous prestigious speaking invitations, including multiple World Congresses, including Cardiology, Diabetes, Pharmacology, and the International Society for Heart Research, as well as the American Heart Association and the British Pharmacology Society.

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Dr Elizabeth Vecchio

Dr Vecchio completed her B.Pharm (Hons, Monash University) in 2008 and worked as a clinical pharmacist in both retail and hospital pharmacy before returning to study a PhD at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Her PhD thesis explored the pharmacology of the adenosine A2B receptor and its role in prostate cancer and cardiovascular fibrosis and was awarded her doctorate in 2017. She received a prestigious NHMRC early career fellowship and commenced work at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in 2018 under Professor Rebecca Ritchie where she is interested in the formyl peptide receptors as a pharmacological target for the treatment of myocardial ischaemia reperfusion injury.

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Key External Collaborators

Dr Kristy Jackson

Dr Kristy Jackson [B.Ap.Sci. PhD] is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow within the Neuropharmacology laboratory at Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute. She has been publishing research in the field of hypertension for over 13 years, using state of the art techniques including radiotelemetry blood pressure monitoring, central nervous system modulation via computer aided stereotaxic apparatus and pharmacological and genetic approaches. Kristy graduated from RMIT with a Bachelor or Applied Science in Pharmaceutical Science in 2006. After 2 years of research in the Molecular Cardiology laboratory at the Victor Chang Research Institute, she was granted honours equivalency and awarded an Australian Post-Graduate Award to undertake her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Geoffrey Head at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

Dr Jackson's PhD research was centred around characterising the BPH/2J hypertensive mouse model using surgical and pharmacological tools to examine the pathophysiological mechanisms driving hypertension. Her studies delved into the central nervous system, sympathetic nervous system as well as metabolic and renin angiotensin system mechanisms responsible for the hypertension in this model. Dr Jackson was awarded her PhD in February 2014 through Monash University’s Department of Pharmacology and subsequently in late 2014 her she was awarded an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship. During her fellowship she has expanded on her work on the role of the neural-renal axis in BPH/2J hypertension, particularly her research aims to show that higher SNS activity to the kidney can occur via disruption of GABAergic pathways in the brain leading to hypertension via a  reduction in the microRNA-181a inhibition of renin expression in the kidney. She currently has a number of collaborations including joint grants with Dr Helena Qin to assess the role of biased FPR agonists in both systemic hypertension (NHF, Vanguard, 2020) and pulmonary hypertension (NHMRC, Ideas Grant, 2020).

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Dr Chen Huei Leo

Dr Leo is currently an adjunct Senior Research Fellow (Drug Discovery Biology, Monash University) and Assistant Professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). Dr Leo completed his PhD in Vascular Pharmacology and Physiology under the supervision of Professor Owen Woodman and Dr Joanne Hart at RMIT University. Prior to joining SUTD, Dr Leo was a research fellow in Professor Laura Parry’s laboratory at The University of Melbourne leading pre-clinical vascular studies to understand how a reproductive hormone, relaxin has beneficial effects in the phase III clinical trial (RELAX-AHF) for acute heart failure patients. His current research focuses on understanding and designing novel therapies and treatment strategies (small molecules, peptides, natural products) for vascular diseases in the context of diabetes, hypertension and reproductive disorders.

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