Congrats to our newly appointed BDI Group Leaders: Wael, Jan and Adam

Monash BDI announce new Group Leaders

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) is excited to announce 13 newly selected Group Leaders. These Group Leaders are part of a program created by Monash BDI to help early career researchers (ECRs) bridge the gap between senior postdoctoral fellow and independent lab head.

Professor Dena Lyras, Deputy Director at the Monash BDI, said that this program provides recognition and additional career momentum for researchers who are leading novel, cutting-edge research programs and developing their independence.

“Congratulations to all of the newly selected Group Leaders. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of these researchers, and we look forward to seeing their next steps and achievements,” said Professor Lyras.

Congratulations to the newly selected Monash BDI Group Leaders:

Dr Wael Awad seeks to elucidate the mechanistic basis underpinning metabolite capture and loading of the MHC class I-related molecule “MR1” by cellular chaperones, by using cutting-edge molecular, immunological and biochemical approaches. He also explores the scope of environmental and microbial metabolites that can modulate human T cell immunity. Such studies pave the way for the development of innovative therapeutics based on selective modulation of T cell immunity.

Dr Jan Petersen’s research focuses on antimicrobial immunity and natural killer (NK) cell immunity. He investigates how T cells and NK cells recognise microbial peptide antigens presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, and aims to decipher the molecular mechanisms that define the ability of the adaptive immune system to distinguish between self and foreign. Focused on events central to infection and immunity, his work is aimed at understanding outcomes in various diseases and transplantation.

Dr Adam Shahine is focused on the molecular roles of lipids in the regulation and dysregulation of human adaptive immunity. Using structural biology, he seeks to investigate the mechanisms of lipid antigen recycling, and the presentation of lipid antigens by CD1 antigen presenting molecule family T cells.

Dr Deepak Adhikari aims to gain a better understanding of how mitochondria are formed and how they regulate the development of eggs and offspring.

Dr Asolina Braun aims to understand what initially causes psoriasis and hence to discover new treatments for this skin disease. Her research is focused on finding peptides that trigger and set off the detrimental immune response in psoriasis.

Dr Luke Formosa investigates how mitochondrial enzymes are built from their individual subunits, and how this process is disrupted in mitochondrial disease. One in 5,000 children will develop a mitochondrial disease, but about one-third of patients won’t have a genetic diagnosis. By discovering new genes that play a role in this process, the diagnosis of patients can be improved, paving the way for new treatments for this disease.

Dr Meiling Han’s research targets antibiotic resistance, focusing on the mechanism(s) underpinning the extensive membrane remodelling that occurs in Gram-negative bacteria and the interactions between remodelled bacterial membranes and membrane-targeting antimicrobials (e.g. lipopeptides). The fundamental mechanistic information that she generates will greatly inform the future design of much-needed antibiotics against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Dr Anja Knaupp’s research centres on characterising cell-type-specific sets of proteins and determining how they operate. Insight into these molecular mechanisms and drivers is key for our understanding of cellular identity and changes that, for example, occur during cancer development.

Dr Rachael Lappan aims to understand the nature and basis of microbial life in the atmosphere, the largest but most unexplored potential ecosystem on Earth. Using cutting-edge molecular and biogeochemical approaches, she aims to identify true microbial residents of the atmosphere, understand their mechanisms for survival in this environment and explore their role in seeding newly formed environments.

Dr Kate McArthur’s research uses a variety of microscopy and cell biology techniques to understand the mechanisms behind, and immune responses to, mitochondrial changes and aberrant cell death during disease.

Dr Nitin Patil is investigating peptide- and oligonucleotide-based antimicrobial drug development and delivery.

Dr Francesca Short combines genomic and molecular microbiology approaches to understand bacterial behaviour and adaptation. Her current research focuses on how bacteria control the production of virulence factors during infection and on how common disinfectants can compromise antibiotic efficacy.

Dr Yogitha Srikhanta investigates strategies that bacterial gut pathogens employ to proliferate, cause disease and survive, with a focus on antibiotic resistance and epigenetic-mediated gene regulation.

Original article

Congratulations Wael – Recipient of the ASBMB: 2022 EPPENDORF EDMAN ECR AWARD


Monash Biomedical Discovery Institute

Monash University

Dr Wael Awad completed BSc and MSc studies at Cairo University, Egypt, resulting in two publications in the fields of molecular biophysics. With the support of an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship, Wael then moved to Sweden and completed a PhD under the supervision of Professor Derek Logan at Lund University. Wael’s PhD research was focused on the structural and functional characterisation of glycoproteins integral to cellular communication and signalling. His outstanding PhD dissertation led to five publications (four as first author and one review) and received the Best PhD Thesis Award from the MAX-IV Synchrotron (2015, Sweden). Wael then pursued his scientific career as a Research Fellow at Monash University (November 2015), under the mentorship of Professor Jamie Rossjohn. At Monash, he has brought a wealth of technical expertise in biochemistry and protein crystallography to markedly advance our understanding of the molecular correlates of metabolite-mediated T cell immunity.

Wael has demonstrated an ability to drive high-calibre research, and establish strong and fruitful collaborations as evidenced by his authorship of 19 original publications (nine as the first author and three reviews) in top-tier journals including Science, Nature Immunology, Science Immunology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Of note, his seminal research on the molecular basis underpinning T cell recognition of microbial-derivatives was showcased on the cover of the April 2020 issue of Nature Immunology. This research paves the way for the development of innovative therapeutics based on selective modulation of T cell immunity. In addition, he has determined 28 protein crystal structures, the data for which have been deposited into the Protein Data Bank open access repository.

Wael has now established an international profile in the field of structural immunology as evidenced by his high impact publications and his selection to present at more than 30 national and international conferences. He has been recognised with more than 16 awards for research excellence including the prestigious International Union of Crystallography Young Scientist Award (New Zealand, 2018), the Robert Porter ECR Publication Prize 2021 for Laboratory-based Sciences (Monash University) and the Robin Anders Young Investigator Award 2021 (Lorne Proteins). He has recently been awarded an Australian ARC DECRA Fellowship (2022–2024) to support the development of his research program in the field of metabolite-mediated T cell immunity.


Original article