Meet the team

Professor Thomas Preiss

Department of Genome Sciences

Thomas Preiss is a world-leading expert in mRNA biology

Thomas' 30 years of RNA research has led to insights that are key features of today's successful mRNA therapeutics. His current work focuses on alternative mRNA 3’ end formation and mRNA-binding proteomes for cardiac diseases. Thomas’ lab is continuing its research on mRNA translation and epitranscriptomics for potential anti-cancer therapies, and additionally, Thomas and his team are investigating the potential use of circRNAs for diagnostics and therapeutics.

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Dr Amee George

Department of Cancer Biology & Therapeutics

An expert in high-throughput screening and drug discovery

Amee and her team in the ANU Centre for Therapeutic Discovery (ACTD) facility provide highly specialised services in assay development and high-throughput screening to test small and large-scale libraries to identify biomarkers and therapeutics for the treatment of disease. The facility provides services to clients including consultancy, service provision and project management across a wide range of different screening assays, including biologics (RNA/CRISPR) through to compound screening. The ACTD is equipped with fully automated state-of-the-art technologies which enable screens to be conducted with biochemical and phenotypic readouts, including high-content screening and high-throughput flow cytometry. The ACTD client base extends to researchers from universities (both domestic and international), as well as commercial enterprises.

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Professor Ross Hannan

Department of Cancer Biology & Therapeutics

Targeting rRNA to treat disease

Despite the advent of personalised cancer medicine, drug resistance to therapies invariably develop as cancer cells adapt their signalling circuitry, to maintain cellular function, Prof Hannan’s group has developed novel therapies targeting dysregulated ribosome synthesis  in diseases including ribosomopathies and cancer. These tools will help us understand how ribosome biogenesis and mRNA translation is dysregulated in pathology and identify novel therapies to treat it.

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Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli

Eccles Institute of Neuroscience

Exploring miRNA in retinal degeneration

Riccardo and his team have developed a unique rodent model of dry AMD which finds application in miRNA therapeutics/diagnostics research. Riccardo’s lab was the first group to isolate retinal extracellular vesicles (EV). His team has identified miRNA as therapeutic targets and biomarkers for AMD, and is investigating miRNA therapeutics/diagnostics for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

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Ms Stephanie Palmer

Biomolecular Resource Facility

Over 30 years of core facility experience

Stephanie and her team in the Biomolecular Resource Facility (BRF) have over 30 years of core facility experience providing consultancy, project management and service provision in cutting edge equipment and techniques for nucleic acid sequencing. The team operate a fleet of short and long read sequencing platforms and utilise standard and innovative library preparation methods for RNA sequencing. The BRF is a certified ONT long read sequencing facility with a BRF client base including researchers from universities, clinical and commercial organisations.

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Professor Eduardo Eyras

Department of Genome Sciences

An expert in developing computational tools to study RNA biology

Eduardo’s group has a long-standing experience in developing computational tools to address a broad range of RNA-biology problems. The team uses Nanopore long-read sequencing to investigate the nucleotide and chemical variations of genomes and transcriptomes, develops novel computational tools and experimental protocols to enable new biological discoveries. Eduardo’s previous tools have found wide adoption in basic biology research and in biomedical applications.

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Dr Tatiana Soboleva

Department of Genome sciences

Understanding the interplay between histones and RNA splicing

Tatiana's group investigates how testis-specific epigenetic regulators, such as histone variants, control pre-mRNA splicing, gene expression and genome compaction in their normal physiological environment of the testis. The group use these findings to understand how these testis-specific regulators alter the abovementioned processes when they become abnormally upregulated during carcinogenesis.

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Dr Gaetan Burgio

Department of Immunology

A CRISPR expert exploring new systems

Gaétan is exploring CRISPR systems’ diversity for novel genome engineering tools – from big data to bench. He is investigating multiple strategies in the use of CRISPR for DNA/RNA detection for diagnostic purposes and for gene therapy. More specifically Gaétan is using novel CRISPR enzymes discovered in his laboratory and optimised CRISPR effectors using protein chemistry.

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Professor David Tremethick

Department of Genome Sciences

International leader in the field of chromatin biology

Tremethick has been viewed as an international leader in the field of chromatin biology for nearly 30 years. His focus has been to understand how chromatin, and its epigenetic modifications, selectively utilise genomic information to direct cell-type specific patterns of gene transcription and splicing. His laboratory has revealed that specific types of epigenetic modifications (the replacement of core histones with their variant forms) have evolved to bind RNA and connect transcription with pre-mRNA splicing outcomes, thus adding another complex layer to the control of gene expression. The importance of this new mechanism with brain function and disease is currently being investigated

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Professor Leonie Quinn

Department of Cancer Biology & Therapeutics

RNA systems in control of Development and Disease

Leonie's lab uses Drosophila Genetics to elucidate molecular mechanisms controlling development which, when defective, drive disease. The team provide insight into the interconnected RNA-dependent systems that pattern multicellular organs and tissues in response to developmental signalling networks. Thus, are uncovering mechanisms regulating transcription, RNA splicing, ribosome biogenesis and mRNA translation of relevance to human diseases, including Cancer and Ribosomopathies.

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Dr Rippei Hayashi

Department of Genome Sciences

An expert in transposon defence pathway

Transposons are relics of past viral infections that became part of the eukaryotic genomes. Some transposons are still active today, erratic action of which causes havoc in genome organisation and impairs normal embryogenesis and reproduction. The Hayashi group studies the mechanism by which a class of small RNA called piRNA specifically suppresses the expression of transposons. The group is interested in understanding how self (protein-coding RNA) and non-self (transposon RNA) are distinguished in the cell; the concept that is analogous to viral-and-host distinction. The strength lies in fruit fly genetics and the computational analysis of small RNA populations using high-throughput sequencing techniques.

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Dr Kate Hannan

Department of Cancer Biology & Therapeutics

Developing inhibitors of rRNA synthesis to treat cancer

Collaborating with Professor Hannan and Pimera, Kate's group has developed a second-generation inhibitor of RNA Polymerase I transcription (PMR-116). PMR-116 has proven to be effective in numerous cancer models and based on the group's work has entered an open label, dose-escalation clinical trial for cancer patients (Australia). They are currently exploring other diseases that may benefit from PMR-116 treatment, and continuing to develop new cancer therapies.

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Associate Professor Tamas Fischer

Department of Genome Sciences

An expert in nuclear non-coding RNAs with a focus on R-loops and RNA-DNA hybrids

Tamás’ 20 years of RNA research has led to novel insights into RNA export & surveillance. The Tamás’ group focuses on nuclear non-coding RNA and chromatin associated RNAs, including the development of RNase H inhibitors. Tamás’ lab utilizes synthetic biology approaches to create a molecular tool to detect DNA or RNA targets for personalized cancer treatment. His molecular tool in development is highly differentiated from current cancer treatment options.

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Dr Jean (Jiayu) Wen

Department of Genome Sciences

RNA-mediated post-transcriptional gene regulation and computational biology

Jean’s computational RNA biology group explores diverse modes of gene regulation through RNAs, including endogenous small interfering RNAs, highly conserved structural RNAs, microRNAs, RNA binding protein interactions, and RNA 3’ end processing. The team integrates advanced machine learning techniques such as deep learning and state-of-the-art high-throughput genome-wide data analysis including single-cell and spatial transcriptome analysis, to quantitively model RNA-mediated gene regulatory interactions. We aim to deduce their role in regulating gene expression and cellular identity and their potential use for RNA-based biotechnologies and therapeutics.

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Dr Nikolay Shirokikh

Department of Genome Sciences

Translational control in aged and cancer cells

Nikolay is a molecular biologist working to understand and use homeostatically active and evolutionarily important RNA. New RNA function in longevity-specific control and stress adaptation can be utilised to alter resilience of the cells, extend the lifespan of critical cell types such as neurons, immune cells and cardiomyocytes, and suppress drug-resistant response of malignant cells, for better health outcomes.

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