BSc Hons (Adelaide), PhD (Adelaide) Biochemistry
Past Chair, Teaching & Learning Committee (2009-2013)
+61 7 336 54629

I completed my PhD in Biochemistry in 1985 at The University of Adelaide under the supervision of Professor George Rogers. From November 1985 - September 1988 I was a Visiting Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda) in Dr Peter Steinert’s lab (NCI - Dermatology Branch). In September 1988, I joined Dr Dennis Roop at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston) as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell Biology chaired by Professor Bert O’Malley. During this time at Baylor, I was also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology. I returned to Australia in June 1995 as a lecturer in Biochemistry at The University of Queensland and was awarded a Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship in 1996.

Brief Research Description: 
Molecular genetics and cell biology of the skin
Research Focus and Collaborations: 

Characterisation of novel bioactive peptides
The difference between proteome complexity and gene number has confounded biologists. This difference can be accounted for in part by alternative transcription start sites, alternadiagramtive splicing, mRNA editing and post-translational modifications. However, we propose that the proteome also contains peptides arising from the translation of short open reading frames (sORFs) present within transcribed regions of the genome. Most translatable sORFs occur in the 5' untranslated regions (5'UTRs) of eukaryotic mRNAs but recent work has shown that they can be found within the main ORF and 3'UTR of mRNAs as well as on non-coding and antisense transcripts. The short peptides (sPEPs) encoded by sORFs may form the basis of a hitherto unknown regulatory network. Current research projects include:

  • Discovery of sORFs and their encoded sPEPs using proteogenomic approaches (with Ross Smith & Amanda Nowens)
  • Characterisation of novel bioactive peptides encoded by sORFs in mammalian cells and tissues
  • Characterisation of novel bioactive peptides from plants and fungi (with Bernie Carroll & James Fraser)
  • Development of bioinformatic tools to discover and characterise sORFs (with Scott Beatson)

Development of the next generation of gene expression systems
A second focus of this laboratory is directed towards the development of new eukaryotic expression vectors. We are investigating the role of post-transcriptional mechanisms in gene expression. This work has led to the development of short cis-acting sequencesGene Dimmer trade mark based on small upstream open reading frames (uORFs) that can be used to modulate gene expression; known as GeneDimmerTM and GeneBooster respectively. Both GeneDimmerTM and GeneBooster expression vectors will ultimately be used in cell biology, gene therapy and agriculture. Current research projects include:

  • Development of second generation GeneDimmerTM vectors and their characterisation in mammalian cell lines
  • Development of plant-specific GeneDimmerTM vectors and their characterisation in transgenic plants (with Bernie Carroll)


Molecular genetics and cellular biology of the integument
We maintain an interest in cutaneous biology and are studying the contribution of individual genes and proteins to skin development, differentiation and maintenance. Our research into the molecular mechanisms that regulate these processes is ultimately aimed at improving the treatment of inherited and acquired skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, cancer and accidental trauma such as burns, using gene and stem cell therapies. The skin also serves as an important model for other epithelia such as the gut, oral cavity, breast and prostate. Current research projects include:

  • Analysis of polymorphisms in key skin and hair genes and their contribution to phenotype
  • The characterisation of RNA-binding proteins (with Ross Smith)


Funded Projects: 

UWA-UQ Bilateral Research Collaboration Award 2013
Development of a nucleolus-homing peptide for targeting RNA-therapeutics in gene therapy
Total value of grant: $19,300

NHMRC Project Grant 2010-2012
The contribution of upstream open reading frames to the eukaryotic proteome
Total value of grant: $192,500

National Rosacea Society 2009-2010
The role of tissue kallikreins in Rosacea
Total value of grant: $21,934



Cell biology, developmental biology, medical genetics and molecular biology.






(human molecular genetics & disease)

(bioinformatics & genomics)

(molecular cell biology)

(differentiation & development)

(mechanisms of development)

Significant Professional Activities and Awards: 
  • Dermatology Foundation Career Development Award (1994)
  • NIH R29 ‘FIRST’ Award (1994)
  • Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship in Medical Science (1996)
  • Board member of The Australasian Society of Dermatological Research (from 2003)
  • Board member of Australasian Wound and Tissue Repair Society (2007 - 2014)
  • Member of the Scientific Research Committee of the Australasian College of Dermatologists (from 2010)
  • Convenor and Co-chair of the Straddie Cutaneous Biology meetings (2002, 2006 & 2014)
  • ComBio2016 Conference Chair
  • President elect (2017 - 2019) The Australasian Society of Dermatological Research

Important Conferences

 (Click on image for meeting information)



sORF & sPEP Resources (Click on images for access)


















Link to PubMed (JAR publications)

Link to Google scholar

Link to Researcher ID

Link to Scopus

Selected Publications: