Researcher biography

I was awarded a PhD in pathology from the University of Queensland in 1989 researching apoptosis in kidney diseases, something that was a bit out there at the time. My publication on apoptosis in hydronephrosis was the first ever on kidney apoptosis, anywhere. My how things have changed. By end of 2017, there were 13500 publications in PubMed on “kidney apoptosis”. After completing my PhD, I took up a position as Manager of the Cell Culture Unit at Pathology before finally being appointed on the academic staff as Head of the Apoptosis Research Group in the Department of Pathology/Oncology Laboratory QIMR. I completed post-doctoral studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York (Prof Ralph Buttyan) and then at Mt Sinai Hospital, Department of Nephrology, New York (trained in gene therapy techniques). There I investigated the molecular characteristics of apoptosis in kidney failure and kidney cancer. In particular I have developed tools for using specialised imaging techniques in order to better understand the role of particular signalling pathways in complex kidney diseases, working with causes like obesity and aging.

Research Interests

I am a Research Director of the Centre for Kidney Disease Research (CKDR) Collaborative at PAH, and Assoc Prof in the School of Biomedical Sciences, co-ordinating the pathology research and teaching group. I lead the Kidney Cancer Research Group with Dr Simon Wood, Head of Urology, PAH. I am recognised internationally for my research, attract international trainees and provide them with an educational, enjoyable and enriching environment for their training; publish my research in top journals in my fields, attract funding, and provide leadership and mentoring to many staff and students at my own university as well as at other tertiary institutions. At SBMS, I am a member of the Teaching & Learning Committee, and assist with Director Research Training tasks. I sit on/chair many awards selection panels at TRI.

I am a molecular biologist with a well-established international record of achievements in kidney disease research. I produced the first study, internationally, on the role of apoptosis in kidney disease (on renal tubular atrophy in hydronephrosis; Gobe and Axelsen, Lab Invest 1987; 56:273-281). I have provided continual leadership in this field over 30 years. By 2017 there are almost 13000 publications in PubMed with “kidney apoptosis” as the search criterion. I am frequently consulted, locally, nationally and internationally, for my knowledge and expertise in apoptosis identification.

In January 2013, the CKDR moved into the new Translational Research Institute (TRI), a joint venture between The University of Queensland, the Quensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Mater Medical Research Institute and the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The facilities are multi-disciplinary, world-class, and conducive to achieving the best results, with the goal of minimising time between a basic laboratory discovery and its effective application in people. As Co-Director of the CKDR, I work with clinicians to direct clinically-relevant projects, especially in chronic kidney disease and kidney cancer. I am a Caucus member of the TRI and was a member of its Research Committee (2 year appointment), so am active in strategic planning to ensure translational research is a priority. I provide academic leadership in formulating models of disease, including the use of high powered imaging techniques such as electron microscopy, multi-photon microscopy, photo-acoustic in vivo imaging. I am Curator of the Kidney Cancer Biobank at PAH and of a new Biobank for an NHMRC Centre of Excellence called “CKD.Biobank”, at the TRI. I have been the ERA Discipline Expert on cardiovascular research for UQ’s ERA submission. I am a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics: COPE (2016-). I am a member of the NHMRC CKD.CRE Consultation and Engagement Committee which assesses progress, budget, education and capacity, translational potential, as well as grant opportunities and future directions.