Our group is defined by our commitment to our community principals. We strive to serve the community by discovering and developing better solutions for good health. We are a diverse, multi-cultural inclusive group where each member of our team is recognised, accepted and embraced. We respond to the needs of our community and encourage a culture of helping others to promote effective communication and improve the sharing of scientific knowledge.
The Cooper Group is contemplative. We continually examine and monitor progress via regular project and group meetings and annual performance reviews that provide the opportunity for everyone to communicate ideas, provide constructive feedback and advice and share positive experiences.
The Cooper Group is a safe and respectful workplace, where each member feels secure and valued. The University of Queensland’s comprehensive workplace safety policies provide an effective framework for a healthy and safe work environment. Our individuals accept responsibility and accountability for safe and respectful working practise.
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 Co-ordinator
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 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 Frank Fontaine is a bioassay officer at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, UQ, since 2006. He has developed more than fourteen protein- and cell-based bioassays, using spectrophotofluorimetric and high-content imaging methods, in the following indications: CNS, cancer, diabetes, obesity, infection, inflammation, stem cells. He has completed a dozen of screening campaigns on marine extracts and pure compounds and has five years of industry experience in the field of antithrombotics for UQ spin off, Thrombostat Pty Ltd, and as a sub-contractor for European CIRD Galderma, Theramex, Zambon Pharmacia, ADME Bioanalyses and UCB Pharma Sector. He has 21 publications and is co-inventor on 1 patent.
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. She has thirty two publications in peer-reviewed journals and is an author of a book chapter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tran Thi Dat Nguyen