About the lab

Our lab studies programmed cell death, a process crucial for tissue development and keeping us healthy.

We use protein crystallography to visualise molecules in atomic detail. This is providing insights into the proteins that regulate programmed cell death and guiding the development of drugs that can target these proteins in diseased cells.


Permeabilisation of the outer mitochondrial membrane is a key step in the programmed cell death pathway of apoptosis, this releases factors that result in the destruction of the cell. The Bcl-2 family of proteins regulate this event, our studies have revealed steps in the conversion of family members from inert monomers to membrane permeabilising killers (Czabotar Cell 2013, Brouwer Mol Cell 2014, Cowan NSMB 2018, Birkinshaw Mol Cell 2021) and have guided the development of agents to modulate Bcl-2 family activity in diseases such as cancer (Lessene NCB 2014, Brouwer Mol Cell 2017, Birkinshaw Nat Comms 2021, Roy JMC 2021).

Lab team

12 members
Bhagya Mendis
Honours Student
Prof Peter Colman
Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Maryam Sana
Research Assistant
Research Assistant
Senior Research Officer
Senior Research Officer
Black and white photo of Richard Birkinshaw
Dr Richard Birkinshaw
Senior Research Officer
Research Officer
Research Assistant
Senior Research Scientist
Cindy Luo
Research Assistant
Interested in supporting our research?

Your support will help WEHI’s researchers make discoveries and find treatments to ensure healthier, longer lives for you and your loved ones.

Contact our friendly team to find out how you can help.