NHMRC Principal Research Fellow
Professor, Institute for Molecular Bioscience
Professor, School of Chemistry & Molecular Bioscience
Matt Cooper completed his PhD in Australia in 1995 and then spent 13 years in the UK, first at the University of Cambridge, then in start-ups and biotechnology companies. This involved innovation, fund raising, intellectual property generation, licensing, product development and commercialisation. He returned to Australia in 2009 as a NHMRC Australia Fellow. He has consulted with Private Equity Investment, Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics companies, was Managing Director of Cambridge Medical Innovations (part of Alere Inc.) and CSO of Akubio Ltd. He is an inventor and driver of a several antibiotic drug discovery programmes with lead compounds pre-clinical. He is an expert in label-free technologies and their application to drug discovery and development with two books in this field. Full CV
Personal Assistant and Group Coordinator
Jan Pinder joined the Cooper Group in September 2009 as Personal Assistant to Professor Matt Cooper & Group Coordinator. Jan holds a Bachelor of Biomedical Science degree, has over 20 years of Corporate Office experience and has worked across a diverse range of industry sectors in High Level Administration including 11+ years in the Tertiary Education Sector. Previously Jan worked as EA to the MD of UniQuest Pty Limited, The University of Queensland’s main commercialization company and prior to this as an Environmental Health Officer for Local Government.
Our Research Academics
Dr. Mark Blaskovich is a Senior Research Officer with extensive medicinal chemistry expertise and over 15 years of industrial drug development experience. As Chief Operating Officer at Mimetica (Australia), he managed the drug discovery and development program for melanocortin-5 receptor antagonists leading to a compound currently in Phase II human trials. In his role at CEPTYR (Seattle) he led a multidisciplinary team that developed a preclinical candidate for protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B, while at Molecumetics (Seattle) he headed a $2m/yr industrial collaboration on peptidomimetic compounds targeting proteases and GPCRs. Mark is currently project leader for the Wellcome Trust-funded program that is developing new antibiotics to treat drug resistant pathogens. He has published over thirty articles and patents, and is sole author of 'The Handbook on Syntheses of Amino Acids'.
Dr Mark Butler has been a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland since September 2009. Prior to this, he worked in Singapore at MerLion Pharmaceuticals focusing on natural product chemistry and anti-bacterial drug development. Dr Butler is a recognised expert in natural product based drug discovery with over 15 years of experience in industry based collaborative research and has published over 62 papers and 4 patents. He was awarded the Matt Suffness (Young Investigator) Award by the American Society of Pharmacognosy in 2002.
Dr Daniel Croker is a Research Officer with 9 years industry experience in drug discovery. He received a B Biomed Sci (hons) in 2000 from Griffith University. Following honours he moved to Xenome Ltd where he worked for 9 years with responsibilities including new target selection, assay development, library screening and was involved in the development of Xen2174 which progressed to phase II clinical trials. He has recently completed his PhD in Prof Matthew Cooper’s lab at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience. His expertise lies in GPCR signalling, innate immunity and assay development with a focus on inflammation.
Dr Alysha Elliott is a Research Officer at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and has a background in molecular and structural biology. She completed her BAppSc (Biochemistry) at the Queensland University of Technology before relocating to the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland to complete her Honours year (First Class in Biochemistry). She has worked at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience as a research assistant for Professor Glenn King on spider toxins and antimicrobial peptides, before completing a PhD with Associate Professor Josh Mylne and Professor David Craik in the area of peptide based drug discovery from plants. Alysha is now part of the Cooper Group, where she is interested in the translation of research for antibacterial drug discovery.
Dr. Alejandra Gallardo-Godoy joined the Cooper Group in 2013 after more than a decade working and studying in the USA. Commencing her career as a PhD graduate at the University of Chile, she was soon awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to complete her degree at Purdue University in the USA. She continued post-doctoral studies at Purdue before venturing out to industry where she worked at Chemical Diversity Labs Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, as a member of the team that discovered the new Cystic Fibrosis drug KalydecoTM . With her experience working in industry, she returned to academia, joining the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), as a Medicinal Chemist Specialist at the Small Molecule Discovery Center (SMDC). During her years as a medicinal chemist, she has predominantly focused on neurochemistry, GPCRs (Serotonin, Dopamine, Opioid, Muscarinic Receptors), neurodegenerative diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease among others. She has published 10 papers and 2 patents.
Dr. Reena Halai is a Research Officer at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience. She received her B.Sc degree in Biochemistry from Kings College London, during which she completed her placement year at GlaxoSmithKline in the Gene Expression and Protein Biochemistry Department. She then went onto work for the oncology department at UCB Pharmaceuticals before commencing her Ph.D. with Prof. D. Craik at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Reena has 6 papers in peer reviewed journals and is now part of the Cooper Group, where her current research interest is GPCR's.
Dr Karl Hansford is a Senior Research Officer within the Cooper group, and has eleven years' experience in synthetic organic, peptidomimetic, process and medicinal chemistry. After several academic appointments (IMB/UQ, University of Pittsburgh, University of Montreal), Karl moved into industry, spending several years in Montreal (Mimetogen Pharmaceuticals) and Melbourne (Boron Molecular) before returning to the IMB. He holds eleven peer reviewed publications and is inventor on two patents.
Xiao (Johnny) Huang
Dr. Johnny Huang is a research officer working at IMB since 2009. He gained his PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Tokyo in 2005. Dr. Huang has 4 years industry experience in cell culture and animal experiments. As a team leader, he successfully led the transgenic mouse team to develop a novel method for culturing mouse embryonic stem cells and generate over 200 lines of knockout/knockin mouse models. Dr. Huang is currently working on mode of action studies of novel antibiotics, as well as the research of drug-protein/membrane interactions. He is also interested in the application of SPR technology for protein, peptide and small molecule binding studies. Dr. Huang has 11 publications in peer reviewed journals.
Dr Fredrik Lindahl completed his MSc in chemistry at Gothenburg University (Sweden) 2002 going on to complete his PhD at Natural Product Discovery/AstraZeneca/Griffith University in Brisbane in organic synthesis (total syntheses of natural products) under Prof. Ron Quinn (CEO of NPD). After some contract syntheses at Gothenburg University, he joined the David Fairlie group at The University of Queensland’s Institute of Molecular Bioscience (IMB) in 2008 working as a Research Officer in medicinal chemistry targeting C5aR antagonists in the GPCR field. He later joined Prof. Jenny Martin’s group (IMB, UQ) starting up a medicinal project targeting DsbA/B enzymes of the E-coli bacteria in the search of antibiotic therapeutics. He is currently working for Prof. Matthew Cooper (IMB, UQ) as a medicinal chemist and is part of a Wellcome Trust funded program developing new antibiotics for treatment of drug resistant pathogens. Fredrik has practiced many varieties of chemistries in the syntheses of small molecules SAR libraries to peptides – within the drug discovery field.
Dr. Sreeman Mamidyala is a Senior Research Officer who received BSc (1996, Osmania University) MSc (1998, Kakatiya University) and PhD (2004) from Indian Institute of Chemical technology, Hyderabad, India. He carried his postdoctoral research at Iowa State University with Professor Nicola Pohl and at Wayne State University with Professor Steven M Firestine. Then he joined as research associate with Professor M. G. Finn at Department of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute. His research interests include (i) click chemistry based drug discovery, (ii) in situ click chemistry (iii) carbohydrate chemistry, and (iv) synthetic methods.
Dr. Andrea Ranzoni received his Msc in Physical Engineering from the Polytechnic of Milan before moving to The Netherlands to complete his PhD at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven. He is currently a Research Officer at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience where his main interests are the development of novel nanotechnologies for in vitro diagnostics. He is author of four publications and inventor in six patents.
Dr Avril Robertson completed her PhD at the University of St Andrews, Scotland in 1999. Since that time she has gained more than 10 years industrial experience in medicinal chemistry and library synthesis. Prior to moving from the UK to join CDDD she worked as project manager and medicinal chemist at Cyclacel Ltd working on small molecule drug discovery in the field of oncology, Thermo Fisher Scientific on heterocyclic custom synthesis and Tripos Discovery Research managing contract research projects involving file enrichment, hit/lead generation and optimisation.
Dr Zyta Ziora has 10 years of academic postdoctoral experience in medicinal chemistry of antimalarial therapeutics, antibacterial agents and enzyme inhibitors (drug candidates against Alzheimer disease, Kyoto Pharmaceutical University, Japan). During her stay at the University of Montpellier (France) she was actively involved in the design and synthesis of the the bis-thiazolium derivatives which are currently in development for treating severe malaria in human clinical trials. She has also been trained in enzymology, microbiology and heamatology and has expertise in spectroscopy and Transmission Electron Microscopy.Her research time is currently dedicated mainly to projects devoted to the modification of existing antibiotics, and complexing them with additional antimicrobial agents, like metal ions, to produce more potent alternatives and by this to overcome the drug resistance of superbugs. She has over forty four publications in peer-reviewed journals and is an author of a book chapter, and she serves as a reviewer for several international journals.
Dr. Johannes Zuegg completed his PhD (Chemistry, Molecular Modelling) at the Technical University of Graz (Austria) and spent one year as a PostDoc at the University of Graz (Austria) doing protein crystallography. After migrating to Australia he was working on Molecular Dynamics simulations for 2.5 years at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University (Canberra), before joining Alchemia Inc., a small Bio-Tech company in Brisbane, as Molecular Modeller in Drug Development for 2 years. After a one year interruption as Computer Research Specialists at Griffith University (Brisbane), he rejoined Alchemia Inc. as Head of IT and Molecular Modelling for another 5 years. He joined the IMB and the Cooper Group in May 2009 as a Senior Research Officer working across the different drug design and development projects.
David Edwards is a Research Assistant with IMB. He has over 20 years experience of analytical chemistry working Pharmaceutical, Agrochemical and Flavour industries. Prior to his appointment at IMB he worked for 7 years with Pfizer UK within the structure elucidation group specialising in mass spectrometry, working with Prep LCMS, LCMSMS and ICPMS systems.
He gained his MSc. in Analytical Chemical Research at University College London comparing super critical fluid extraction with liquid/ liquid techniques of essential oils. These extracts were analysed by GC/MS.
Angela Kavanagh is a microbiologist from Universidad de Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). From 2006 to 2008, she was a Research Assistant at the Laboratory Microbial Ecology and Food at Universidad de Los Andes, researching in food pathogens and molecular biology. She then moved to the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, UQ as a Research Assistant in 2009 to work with Professor Rob Parton, testing caveosphere and siRNA or other small molecules to be incorporated into caveosphere. In 2011, she became a part of Matt’s Cooper Group, to work on immunological and microbiology techniques and is currently working on the antibiotic project.
Namfon is a Research Assistant with 10 years experience in drug discovery. She received a MSc of Biotechnology in 2006 from The University of Queensland before relocating to The University of Sydney where she worked on several projects which involved developing novel antifungal and anticancer agents. In 2012, she moved to The University of Melbourne to work on new antibiotics termed antimicrobial peptides which targets bacteria associated with chronic periodontitis and dental caries. She is currently working on a Wellcome Trust program with the aim of developing new antibiotics against drug resistant bacteria. Her expertise lies in bacterial, fungal and mammalian cell cultures, flow cytometry, and radioactive materials techniques. She has 12 publications in peer reviewed journals to date.
Ruby Pelingon is an Analytical Chemist/Research Assistant at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland responsible for purifying a library of novel synthetic compounds. Prior to this, she has worked at Interphil Laboratories, Inc., Philippines as a Quality Assurance Laboratory Analyst responsible for Analytical Method Validation. She received her BS in Chemistry from Silliman University, Philippines.
Soumya Ramu is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland since November 2009. Graduated in Advanced Masters of Biotechnology from The University of Queensland, she has gained knowledge in techniques in molecular biology along with culturing and maintaining mammalian cell lines. Soumya also has expertise in immunological and microbiology techniques and is currently working on the antibiotic project.
Eduardo Albornoz joined the Cooper group as a PhD student in October 2014. Prior to this, he received his Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile followed by a Masters in Biochemistry at the same University. Subsequently he worked as a research assistant in endocrinology and inflammation lab at the Millenium Institute on Immunology and Immunotherapy where he gained experience studying the relationship between thyroid hormones and neuroinflammatory diseases. His PhD focuses on the mechanism of action of novel drugs targeting the inflammasome in CNS diseases including Parkinson and Amiotrophic lateral sclerosis. Eduardo is a recipient of the UQ international scholarship awarded to outstanding international research higher degree students
Megha Bajaj joined the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland as a PhD student in July 2011. Prior to this, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology (Honours Course) from University of Delhi followed by Masters in Bioinformatics. Subsequently she moved on to work with a life science R&D Company for two years, where she gained experience in microbial proteomics, structural biology and high performance computing. Her PhD focuses on the development of anti-infectives targeting microbial proteins to combat resistance against superbugs. Her main research interests are in microbiology and drug discovery.
Johan first joined the Cooper Group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in 2013 and completed an Honours project in Chemistry (First Class). Johan returned in September 2014 as a PhD student after receiving an Australian Postgraduate award. Prior to this, Johan completed a Bachelor of Biotechnology from the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. His current research focuses on the molecular basis of antibiotic interactions with their bacterial targets using techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), x-ray crystallography and membrane mimetics.
Ingrid Edwards joined the Cooper group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience as a PhD student in October 2014. In 2008, she received her Master’s degree in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the University of Lyon, France. She then spent three years working for Merck-Serono in Switzerland where she gained experience in analytical techniques used by the drug discovery. Subsequently, she worked for Australian government, UQ and Pharmasynth for three years where she then expanded her knowledge on the food industry and the protein world. Her PhD focuses on the structural approach of the mode of action of protein against Gram-negative bacteria membrane.
Marwa joined Cooper group at Institute for Molecular Biosciences in April 2014 as a PhD student. She is a pharmacist and was working as a teaching assistant in microbiology department, Misr University for Science and Technology, Egypt. Then, she received her master’s in Biotechnology at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. In her thesis, she successfully detected mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA using gold nanoparticles as a member of Novel Diagnostics & Therapeutics Research Group at AUC. Marwa is interested in nanotechnology, microbiology, molecular biology and diagnostics and is working in the diagnostic team to detect bacteria from clinical samples using nanotechnology approaches.
Angie commenced her PhD studies with the Cooper group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in 2012. Her PhD research is focused on developing novel antibiotics to fight anaerobic bacteria. Previously Angie completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide, graduating with a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours and a Diploma in Languages (Italian) in 2011. Angie is an Australian Postgraduate Award recipient.
Sanjaya joined Cooper group @ IMB as a PhD candidate in July 2013. He obtained his bachelor degree in Medical Laboratory Technology from Manipal University, India and his masters from Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine, Malaysia. Prior to joining the group, as a registered laboratory scientist in Nepal he worked in different divisions of medical laboratory and has research experience in development of diagnostic tool for Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) detection. In the group, he is working with the diagnostic team to develop novel nanoparticles based diagnostic method for detection of dengue from clinical samples.
Lalith joined as a PhD student with the Cooper group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in July 2014. In 2009, he obtained a Master’s degree in Medicinal chemistry at Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai, India. He then spent two and a half years as research associate at GVK Biosciences (GVK BIO), where he worked on protein modeling and rational drug design and reaction analysis from published journals and patents. Later, he joined as research associate Dr. Reddy’s Institute of Life Sciences (2011-2014) where he acquired experience in structure and ligand- based drug design tools in molecular modeling field. His current PhD research is design and synthesis of compounds against fungal infections in immunocompromised individuals like patients with AIDS.
Tran Thi Dat Nguyen
Wanida commenced her PhD studies with the Cooper group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in April 2013. She received a Master’s degree in organic chemistry from Mahidol University. Her MSc thesis focused on modification of antibiotic derivatives and evaluation for antimicrobial activities against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), where she gained experience in both chemistry and microbiology. Her PhD focuses on the modification of antibiotics and fluorescence microscopy as tools for understanding mode of action.
Miranda Pitt commenced her PhD studies with the Cooper Group at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in April 2014. In 2013, she completed her honours year at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute investigating differential gene expression in an Ankylosing spondylitis mouse model. Upon finishing honours, she graduated with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and was awarded Honours Class I at the University of Queensland. Her PhD project delves into understanding the mode of action of last resort antibiotics against multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria and the genetic basis underpinning resistance. Miranda is a recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award.
Manohar Salla joined Cooper group, Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland as a PhD student in July 2014. Prior to this, he received his Master's degree in Organic chemistry from Kakatiya University, India. After his master's degree he worked in several medicinal chemistry departments of various organizations in India and Singapore. Most recently he worked as a research scientist for AMRI Singapore research center pte Ltd, Singapore. His PhD work mainly focuess on NLRP3 inhibitors for treatment of CNS diseases.
Zoe Schofield Joined the Cooper group and began her PhD in 2012. Her PhD research is investigating native and novel allosteric ligands for the free fatty acid receptor 2 (FFA2) in inflammatory disease. Zoe graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a Bachelor of Science (first class honours) in Biomedical Science. She then spent 18 months working in contract research where she gained experience of GLP, ELISA, flow cytometry and CBA techniques in a clinical research setting. Her main focus is modulating innate immune responses to protect against auto-inflammation.