Bright sparks: A lifelong fascination with science

Bright sparks: A lifelong fascination with science

Illuminate newsletter header, Summer 21/22
December 2021

Dr Marija Dramicanin
Dr Marija Dramicanin heads up WEHI's Protein Production
Facility. 

As a primary school student in Serbia, Dr Marija Dramicanin was a keen gymnast and artist. But when she started learning about viruses, it sparked a new fascination – science. 

“The devastating global impact of the HIV crisis was frequently spotlighted in the media in the 1980s,” Dr Dramicanin said. 

“I wanted to help find a cure. While I never got to work on HIV, the fields that I specialise in – protein chemistry, structural biology and early drug discovery – contributed to the development of HIV drugs that, 30 years later, give HIV-positive people the ability to live long and healthy lives. 

“It really highlights the transformative impact of research.” 

After studying and working in Europe and the UK, Dr Dramicanin joined WEHI, where she employed her unique set of skills at the National Drug Discovery Centre, a state-of-the-art facility using high-throughput screening technologies to fast-track medicines to Australian patients. 

She is now leading a team of researchers at WEHI’s newly established Protein Production Facility. The facility will make high-quality recombinant proteins to support drug discovery and other research efforts at WEHI, enabling discoveries of new drugs to treat human diseases. 

Dr Dramicanin said the job was dynamic and exciting. 

“It suits my personality,” she said. 

“Every day I learn something new: collaborating on new projects, using new techniques and working with talented researchers from many different areas of WEHI. I’m excited to be able to contribute to solving human health issues, including a possible new treatment for COVID-19, a global health problem just like HIV was when I was a child.”

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