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BDI researchers honoured in annual Dean’s Awards

Congratulations to Drs Adam Shahine and Milda Kaniusaite, who have each been recognised with a Dean’s Award for Excellence in 2021 for research carried out at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI).

Dr Shahine won an award in the Excellence in Research – Early Career Researcher category.

“It was an honour to receive the ECR category for the Dean’s Excellence in Research award,” he said.

Dr Shahine has researched the immune system and its functions regulating and dysregulating immunity in our bodies since 2014 in Professor Jamie Rossjohn’s lab. “This work has provided a number of novel molecular insights into how presentation of lipid antigens plays a role in modulating adaptive immunity,” he said.

The research has been appeared in a number of high quality publications such as ‘Nature Cancer’ and ‘Science Immunology’, and been presented at conferences at places including the UK and US. “And that has all made an impact on the field,” Dr Shahine said. “Building upon this body of work, I was awarded an ARC DECRA Fellowship to continue research in this field to explore uncharted territory.”

Dr Shahine acknowledged the role of Professor Rossjohn in his career successes. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentorship of my supervisor Jamie Rossjohn, the supportive network within the laboratory, as well as collaborators at Harvard,” he said. The Australian Synchrotron has been invaluable, he added.

Dr Shahine is supervising three junior post-doc researchers and three PhD students, as well as conducting his own research.

Biochemist Dr Milda Kaniusaite’s research in the field of discovering new antibiotics earned her a Dean’s Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence.

She said the exciting interdisciplinary project sought to understand the biosynthesis mechanism of clinically relevant antibiotics such as Teicoplanin and Vancomycin, then, based on these findings, re-engineer the biosynthesis pathway and demonstrate production of altered sequence products.

“This project was highly unique, given the fact that I was able to isolate whole antibiotic biosynthesis mega-enzymatic machinery from bacteria,” Dr Kaniusaite said. “In general, findings from my PhD can be considered as a set of rules that provide novel guidelines for effective biosynthetic pathway re-engineering leading to the synthesis of new molecules,” she said.

“The results from this study appear to be universal and can be relevant to the re-engineering of many other clinically important compounds produced by mega-enzymes. “This I believe will be of great importance in developing new drugs related to the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacterias,” she said.

Dr Kanuisaite said it was a great pleasure and honour to win the award. “The award motivates and boosts my confidence that I am on the right track being a researcher and working for science. It helps me to open new doors, get new opportunities and gives an additional strength dealing with new and upcoming challenges.”

She is now a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Clinical Medicine at the University of Oslo, Norway.

The awards were given to 25 Monash Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences individuals and team recipients for outstanding achievements in education, research, industry education programs, professional services, and doctoral thesis.

During the virtual event this month, Professor Christina Mitchell AO, Dean of Monash Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences acknowledged the efforts of all staff and PhD graduates. “I would like to congratulate all of our award winners. You are an amazing group and outstanding in every way. I look forward to congratulating you in person soon,” she said.

Videos of this year’s winners discussing their projects and achievements can be viewed on the Dean’s Award for Excellence website.


About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

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