My background is as a basic and translational scientist with extensive expertise in molecular virology (Nature Methods 2008; Nature Microbiology 2022; PloS Pathogens 2012; Traffic 2017; Nature Microbiology 2022) and basic immunology (Nature Immunology 2002, Blood 2004). Using this foundation, I have utilized many mechanistic aspects of basic science research to focus on translational solutions with regard to gene therapy efforts (Molecular Therapy, 2015 & 2017) and pandemic responses (PloS Med. 2021; Nature Microbiology 2022; Lancet Ebiomedicine 2022). As of January 2023 I have published over 86 primary journal articles in my field with total number of citations equal to 5340.
Whilst the work of my laboratory has led at studying the interface of cell biology and pathogens like HIV (see infected cell below, where HIV is white and the cells cytoskeleton is red) and the ability to repurpose viral elements for efficient gene delivery vehicles, it is of late that we have used the skills developed through this research for the study of Covid-19 and also recently monkeypox.
The foundations of our strong background in molecular virology came into action at many levels during the Covid-19 response. This began with diagnostic-research partnerships that enabled analysis and use of plasma donor units supplied by our national blood bank in clinical trials and for manufacture of fractionated immunoglobulins in collaboration with CSL . This then evolved into variant surveillance with diagnostic teams testing our once functional Hotel Quarantine during the shutting of our international borders. This activity alone enabled real-time study of all major global variants at a time where we had no community viral spread. In late 2021, we were only one of a handful of global teams to give a risk snapshot of the first Omicron variant BA.1. Whilst this was initially covered extensively in the Australian media, our results had immediate impact with commentary in Nature and more importantly being cited in CDC therapeutic and many national and international guidelines regarding vaccination. In 2022, we retooled and adjusted to an environment with high levels of community spread. Key in the work we do now as virologists is to continue to develop platforms, engage key national and international stakeholders and important clearly communicate the need and power of molecular medicine. Our national stakeholders and collaborators are many and include many Australian cohorts such as VIIM and ADAPT, the national blood bank Lifeblood and CSL Behring. Whilst we establish and use other power of molecular medicine to facilitate the response to the pandemic, we have readily shared widely our platforms, know-how and viral isolates to teams across Australia. The latter we our proud of and continue to foster and bring on new collaborations to enable greater impact to not only diseases now but those emerging in the future. As we learnt during the pandemic, expertise in one virus can be retooled and applied to many others. In addition, expertise in virology can indeed be readily applied to many other aspects of molecular medicine. The latter even more so with the arrival of gene editing and use thereof in many disease states.
Whilst our contribution during the Covid response was across a continuum, a working example of our work and my teams journey can be read here: