UQ’s raft of discoveries in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences are contributing to both medicine and biotechnology, and were rated at among the highest in Australia in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise. UQ’s Molecular and Cellular Biosciences researchers have been honoured with some of Australia’s most prestigious scientific awards, including five Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science and one Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, as well as numerous prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fellowships.

Our research seeks to understand the molecular and cellular basis of processes in humans and other organisms. It spans small molecules through to proteins, nucleic acides, viruses and microorganisms to eukaryotic cells and organisms, with the objective to develop pharmaceutical and cellular therapies, technologies and diagnostics to prevent or treat diseases, and to transform and create new industries in a broad range of areas from biology and agriculture to green energy.

In addition to our major presence in biotechnology, UQ’s scientific contributions are having significant impact on global health with over 40 patents filed. Spin-off companies include: Alchemia – using expertise in chemistry to discover and develop human therapeutic products; Impedimed - pioneering the use of next generation bioimpedance spectroscopy technology; Neurotide - creating the next generation of pain killers based on the body’s own natural pain killer, endomorphin; and TetraQ – offering preclinical services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Research occurs at:

  • Faculty of Science
  • Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • Queensland Brain Institute

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of: 

  • Structural, Cell, Stem Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Biological Chemistry, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
  • Immunology and Inflammation
  • Genetics, Genomics and Proteomics
  • Cell based Therapies, Drug Discovery and Delivery
  • Molecular Plant Sciences
  • Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering
  • Microbial Pathogenicity 

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences in brief

  • More than 180 full-time equivalent researchers
  • More than 60 PhD and MPhil students in 2014
  • More than 1130 publications since 2008
  • More than $186.5 million in research funding since 2008
  • Biochemistry and Cell Biology research rated above world standard in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise.

Highlights of UQ Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

Providing the interface between the genome, the cell and human disease

  • At the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, researchers in molecular cell biology, developmental biology and genetics, participate in nationally and internationally funded research programs in cellular microbiology, reproductive medicine, stem cell biology, membrane bioscience and cancer biology.
  • The Molecular Pathways in Human Disease research program comprises 17 research groups who collectively investigate the molecular pathology of human disease using integrated and multidisciplinary approaches. The aim is to provide mechanistic insights into complex disease processes and define novel targets for future therapies.
  • The Cell Signalling, Injury and Repair group in the School of Biomedical Sciences focusses on the role of cell signalling in health and disease, with the ultimate aim of developing cell-based therapies for tissue regeneration and repair.

Understanding important cellular systems through macromolecular crystallography

  • The United Nations has declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography. Crystallography examines the structure of crystals and is the most powerful method to determine the atomic structure of macromolecules. It is therefore an essential tool in understanding the function of biological macromolecules, as reflected by half of Nobel Prizes in the last decade being awarded in this area. UQ’s activity in this sphere includes researchers at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience developing novel drugs targeting the proteins that cause diseases such as bacterial and viral infection, type 2 diabetes and inflammation. Researchers from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences study enzymes as targets for drug discovery and proteins involved in infection and immunity of mammals and plants. Macromolecular crystallography at UQ is linked through UQ-ROCX (Remote Operation Crystallography and X-ray Diffraction Facility), a central facility located at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience. It houses some of the best equipment for macromolecular crystallisation and X-ray diffraction in Australia.

Tissue engineering and synthetic biology for the analysis and design of complex biological systems

  • UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is leading the development of experimental and computational tools to analyse and design complex biological systems, with expertise in metabolic modelling and flux analysis that is world leading. Studies of biological systems are diverse and include such subjects as bacteria, baker’s yeast, sugarcane, insects and mammals. This research has attracted industrial partnerships with companies including Dow, Metabolix, Amyris, LanzaTech, Boeing, Virgin Australia and GE. These metabolic engineering partnerships have focussed on developing new ways of producing aviation fuel, various materials and bioactives (antibiotics, biopesticides, monoclonal antibodies). Researchers from the AIBN are also applying system analysis and design approaches to tissue engineering, including novel strategies for generating microtissues for drug screening and using stem cells to produce red and white blood cells for transfusion.