About the lab

The Dewson Lab’s research is focused on the powerhouses of cells, structures called mitochondria. Maintaining the integrity and function of mitochondria is essential for cells to survive and to grow. Mitochondria are also central to the process of cell death termed apoptosis.

Defective function and integrity of mitochondria can lead to many diseases including Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Our research uses innovative approaches to better understand how cells in our body maintain their mitochondria to promote cell survival. This information is informing the development of new ways to treat a broad range of diseases with a specific focus of our research on Parkinson’s disease.

Our mission

To undertake cutting edge, imaginative and collaborative research to define the molecular basis of disease. Ultimately, we aim to exploit this fundamental insight to develop new targeted therapies to treat disease of defective cell death, specifically Parkinson’s disease and neuroblastoma.


Our research has provided new insight into the fundamental cell processes of apoptosis and mitophagy and their role in disease.

Key discoveries include:

  • We have made key discoveries in the control of PINK1/Parkin mediated mitophagy (Bernardini et al 2018 EMBO J, Gan et al Nature 2022).
  • Characterised how Bak and Bax function during apoptosis that is now the accepted model of apoptotic pore formation (Dewson et al Molecular Cell 2008, Dewson et al CD&D 2012, Dewson et al Molecular Cell 2009, Ma..Dewson JBC 2013)
  • In collaboration with the Czabotar lab at WEHI provided the first crystal structures of Bax:BH3-only protein and Bax and Bak homodimers (Czabotar et al Cell 2013, Brouwer et al Molecular Cell, 2014 and 2017)
  • Identified novel aspects of apoptosis regulation and avenues for therapeutic intervention (Chin et al Nature Comms 2018; Ma et al CD&D 2014; Van Delft et al Nature Chem Biol 2019).


Members of the Dewson Lab at mini golf

Lab research projects

Lab team

Each member of the lab has their own research focus within the broader context of understanding the fundamental processes of cell death and mitochondrial quality control (mitophagy) and how these processes influence diseases including Parkinson’s disease.

We collaborate widely within WEHI and with external labs. Research positions are available for those with a passion for discovery and translational research.

12 members
Anne Miller
Research Assistant
Annabell Schreiner
PhD Student
Research Officer
Dr Isobel Lawrenson
Centre Coordinator
PhD Student
PhD Student
PhD Student
Marlene Schmidt
PhD Student
Senior Research Officer
Senior Research Officer
Dr Iris Tan
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.