ACRF Chemical Biology

ACRF Chemical Biology

Protein structure formed in the process of apoptosis
The ACRF Chemical Biology division investigates key biological processes and pathways critical in disease development to discover potential drug targets important for human disease.
Our researchers use chemical, biochemical, structural and biological approaches to establish how dysregulation of critical cell signalling pathways contributes to disease, and use this to guide novel therapeutic development.

Targeting inflammatory disease

Dr Isabelle Lucet and Associate Professor Guillaume Lessene are leading a collaboration with institute colleagues to discover small molecules that could block necroptosis, an inflammatory cell death pathway. Necroptosis has been linked with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.

The team tested a range of small molecules and identified one that inhibited the protein MLKL by ‘jamming the switch’ that makes it active. The team has embarked on a collaborative project with the biotech company Catalyst Therapeutics to develop a potent new drug based on the small molecule identified in the study.

Award for blood researcher

Professor Benjamin Kile was awarded the 2015 Merck Millipore Research Medal by the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for his discoveries shedding new light on blood cell formation and function.

Professor Kile’s discoveries include pinpointing the mechanism responsible for the survival of blood platelets, a finding that informed the development of a new class of cancer drugs called the BH3 mimetics. He also found that a gene linked to cancer was critical for blood stem cell function, and identified how dying cells are silenced by the body to avoid unnecessary immune responses.

Developing a cure for HIV

In recent times, treatments have been developed that can allow people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives. However, the ability to continue treating people with HIV for their lifetime has a high economic cost, even in wellresourced countries. There remains the need for a curative treatment for HIV.

An NHMRC Development Grant is enabling a collaboration between Dr Brad Sleebs and researchers at the Doherty Institute and The University of Melbourne. The multidisciplinary team is working to identify new compounds that have the potential to be developed as drugs that may cure HIV.

Health impact

Cancers: blood cancers, breast cancers, myeloproliferative disorders, stomach cancers

Immune disorders: Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatic fever and heart disease

Infectious disease: HIV, malaria, toxoplasmosis and vaccines

Other areas: heart disease and stroke, neurodegenerative disease, personalised medicine, thalassemia

Division head

Associate Professor Guillaume Lessene

Lab heads

Dr Ethan Goddard-Borger

Dr Isabelle Lucet

Professor Keith Watson, honorary

Associate Professor Chris Burns, visiting scientist

Division coordinator

Dr Michelle Lam