Chemical Biology

Still from WEHI.TV animation Apoptosis and Signal Transduction. An apoptosome: a protein structure formed in the process of apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Research Focus

  • Target identification and validation: elucidating and modulating key biological processes and pathways critical for the development of diseases
  • Drug discovery and development: identifying and developing small molecules that selectively target biological interactions important in human diseases


The ACRF Chemical Biology division develops targeted chemical approaches to probe key biological pathways implicated in disease. The division combines world-class research expertise and translational capabilities in medicinal chemistry, molecular biology and developmental biology and incorporates the institute’s state-of-the-art assay development and high-throughput chemical screening technology platforms. We capitalise on multidisciplinary capabilities in our fully integrated drug discovery and development program, which aims to identify novel therapies for diseases with unmet medical needs.

There is a strong divisional research focus on developing improved cancer therapies by disrupting processes and pathways that drive and sustain cancers. Current targets include selectively regulating programmed cell death (apoptosis) and cell proliferation. The division is also closely aligned with the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), whose research focuses on a host of cancer targets.

In addition to cancer research, the division is exploring novel targets implicated in parasitic infections where, in collaboration with scientists from the Infection and Immunity division, we are investigating whether it is possible to selectively target cells infected with the malaria parasite. Researchers within our division are also collaborating with colleagues in other research divisions, for instance to develop new medicines for treating inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Chemical Biology PhD and Honours student research projects

Faculty Members

Professor Benjamin Kile (Joint Division Head)

Associate Professor Guillaume Lessene (Joint Division Head)

Dr Chris Burns

Professor Keith Watson (honorary)

Dr Ethan Goddard-Borger

Dr Isabelle Lucet

Scientific coordinator: Dr Kylee Aumann

Click here to support the research of the Chemical Biology Division

ACRF supported the fit-out of the laboratories in the Chemical Biology division.