Our projects

Our projects

The BDDRC Centre aligns with five of the Australian Government’s nine science and research priorities:

  1. Food (agricultural biotechnology)
  2. Soil and Water (agricultural production, bacterial contamination)
  3. Energy (biofuels and enzymes)
  4. Advanced Manufacturing (synthetic biology, nanotechnology)
  5. Health (cancer research, diagnostics and therapeutics)

The BDDRC is a research leader across multiple priorities of the MQ Research Framework since our biomolecular research is essential for the success of Macquarie University in:

  • Future Shaping Priority 1 - Health (Translational medical research);
  • Future Shaping Priority 4 - Secure Planet (Living in a changing environment); and
  • Future Shaping Priority 5 - Innovative Technologies (Science and engineering technologies for the 21st century; Big Data: Acquisition, analysis, application and assurance) of the Research Framework.

Members of the BDDRC are in collaborative research across the University and with industry partners in the following areas.

Proteomics, Genomics, Glycomics and Transcriptomics

The ‘omics technologies offer the potential to discover new genes, proteins, sugars and metabolites, that have potential to be further utilised by synthetic biology, to target disease and nutrition. Molecular targets are also being identified to improve resistance to crop diseases and as biosensors for both medical and agricultural applications.

Researchers: Nicki Packer, Paul Haynes, Ian Paulsen, Sasha Tetu, Morten Andersen, Robert Willows, Shoba Ranganathan

Synthetic Biology and Gene Transfer Systems

Synthetic biology represents the next transformative phase of the biological sciences and is made possible by developments in many fields that contribute to synthetic biology — including genome sequencing, computing, nanotechnology and significant improvements to various laboratory techniques. Systems biology, inspired by the scientific advances in molecular biology (1970-80s) and, foundationally, by microbiology, biochemistry and genetics (1950-60’s) is the next era of advancement in the biological sciences and is ripe with opportunities.

Links: Synthetic biology Consortium

Researchers: Ian Paulsen, Helena Nevalainen, Louise Brown, Paul Jaschke, Robert Willows, Sasha Tetu


Research projects contribute to the development of new technologies for the production of industrially and medically important gene products. We use molecular tools for high level gene expression and knockout studies, and create and analyse genomic and proteomic data to understand cell metabolism and protein secretion. We make recombinant enzymes for industrial uses and develop synthetic biology methods for microbial strain improvement.

Research focusing on the application of biotechnological relevant proteins includes immobilisation of industrial enzymes and proteins to different inorganic solid matrices, and development of cell-free biocatalytic modules for biotechnology and enzyme-based processes.

Researchers: Helena Nevalainen, Anwar Sunna

Protein Structure, Modifications and Expression

Proteins are the main functional components of life, with functions including storage of nitrogen, structural rigidity, transport, signaling, binding, and enzymatic catalysis.

Researchers: Bridget Mabbutt, Louise Brown, Robert Willows, Nicki Packer

Biomarker Discovery

We are interested in discovering protein biomarkers relevant to cancer progression, patient response to treatment and in understanding how cell signaling networks are altered in cancers. Several studies have also clearly established glycosylation changes associated in cancer. Identification of relevant glycosylation changes in proteins could facilitate novel glycan-based biomarkers for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.

Researchers: Nicki Packer, Morten Andersen, Paul Haynes

Microbial Physiology and Pathogenicity

Our research includes understanding microbial physiology and evolution using approaches such as genome sequencing, metagenomics and systems biology. We examine how microorganisms contribute to health and disease in hosts, and the vital ecosystem services that microbes provide.

Researchers: Ian Paulsen, Helena Nevalainen, Nicki Packer, Sasha Tetu, Andrew Piggott

Affiliated centres

Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics

The research at the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics has identified three biologically driven challenges at the forefront of current research:

  • The Spark of Life – measuring embryonic metabolism
  • Origins of Sensation – the role of immune signals in sensation
  • Inside Blood Vessels – measuring nitric oxide in functional blood vessels

These challenges have been selected because they pose measurement questions that cannot be addressed with existing technologies. They provide a context in which we can explore and extend the limits of the science, and a pathway for evolving research outcomes within each theme in directions that will enable translation and impact.

ARC Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry

Society needs new approaches to solving the difficulties of providing enough food for the future. The Centre trains young scientists in applying molecular analysis skills to solve specific problems that the food industry faces in the whole process of taking food production from "field to fork".

Chief Investigators, post-doctoral fellows and students of the ARC Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry are all members of the Macquarie University Biomolecular Discovery and Design Research Centre and many are members of Macquarie University Synthetic Biology Consortium.

Back to the top of this page