National Drug Discovery Centre

About us

The NDDC is an initiative of WEHI and offers Australian medical researchers access to a fully staffed facility with drug screening expertise and the latest in robotic high-throughput technologies.

Government and philanthropic funding

Support from the Australian and Victorian Governments has enabled the expansion of the NDDC, and subsidises the cost of access for Australian researchers.

This funding builds upon WEHI’s own $32 million investment, as well as previous Victorian Government support and generous donations from AWM Electrical, Mr Mike Fitzpatrick AO and Ms Helen Sykes.

Meet the experts

We have a team of world-class experts with academic and industry experience and a proven track record of advancing novel drugs.

Associate Professor Kym Lowes

BSc (Hons) PhD UWA
  • Joint Head, National Drug Discovery Centre (Screening)

Associate Professor Kym Lowes received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Western Australia in 2002. Following this, she undertook postdoctoral studies at the Howard Florey Institute, National Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre and The Bionic Ear Institute.

She joined the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 2007 and the Screening Lab in 2011, serving as the Deputy Head of Screening in 2019 before being appointed Head of Screening in 2020.

Assoc Prof Lowes has extensive experience in diverse aspects of the drug discovery process including discovery biology, high-throughput screening, hit-to-lead and lead optimisation. She has a successful track record in leading screening campaigns with internal and external collaborators from both academia and pharmaceutical companies.

The screening laboratory exploits state-of-the-art robotic equipment to enhance the scope and speed of the pre-clinical drug discovery process.


Associate Professor Jeff Mitchell

BSc (Hons) PhD Melbourne
  • Joint Head, National Drug Discovery Centre (Operations and Medicinal Chemistry)

Associate Professor Jeff Mitchell is a medicinal chemist and holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has more than 15 years’ pharmaceutical industry experience, specialising in the discovery and development of novel small-molecule drugs.

Before joining the institute in 2015, Assoc Prof Mitchell was a Principal Scientist at Biota Pharmaceuticals, where he played a critical role on a number of small-molecule anti-infective projects. Among these were a human orthopneumovirus program, which progressed from hit to Phase 2 clinical trials in partnership with MedImmune and AstraZeneca, and a Clostridium difficile program that was successfully licensed to Taxis Pharmaceuticals.


Professor Guillaume Lessene

BSc (Hons) Paris PhD Bordeaux
  • Theme Leader, New Medicines and Advanced Technologies

Professor Guillaume Lessene trained as an organic chemist, completing his PhD at the University of Bordeaux, before undertaking postdoctoral work with Professor Feldman at Pennsylvania State University.

Since moving to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 2001, his major research focus has been the development of small molecules that target apoptotic and necroptotic cell death pathways.

Since January 2019, Prof Lessene heads the New Medicines and Advanced Technologies Theme at the institute. This multidisciplinary research theme comprises of basic research driven by structural and chemical biology, translation of basic discoveries into new medicines together with clinical research, and cutting-edge technologies.

Prof Lessene’s work targeting the BCL-2 family of proteins for cancer therapy formed the basis of a major collaboration between the Institute and two pharmaceutical companies, Genentech and AbbVie, leading to the development of venetoclax, the first BH3-mimetic approved by the US Federal Drug Agency (FDA) for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).


Dr Kate Jarman

BSc (Hons) PhD Adelaide
  • Deputy Head of Screening

Dr Kate Jarman received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Adelaide in 2010. Following this, she moved to Melbourne to undertake a postdoctoral position with Professor Shaun Jackson at The Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (Monash University) studying regulatory mechanisms of platelet function in thrombosis.

She joined the Screening Lab at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 2012 and assumed the role of Deputy Head of Screening in January 2019.

She is experienced in leading all facets of screening projects from assay design, development and execution through to hit validation and hit-to-lead support. Dr Jarman has successfully led projects encompassing diverse targets and technologies involving a range of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute disciplines, as well as external academic and pharmaceutical collaborators.


Australian drug discovery network

The NDDC provides researchers in Australia with access to high-throughput screening (HTS), which enables the fast, robotic testing of biological targets that are useful for the development of new medicines to treat disease.

To complement these activities, the following Australian organisations provide expertise and capabilities that may help advance your drug discovery project.

These services are critical to the drug discovery pipeline. They include key activities such as medicinal chemistry, safety testing, or assistance to develop a robust assay for a screening campaign. Therapeutic Innovation Australia provides a comprehensive guide to additional facilities and capabilities accessible to Australian researchers.

Diagram illustrating the NDDC fitting in a wider network of drug discovery

If you would like your organisation to be added to the list above, please contact us.

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