About Us // Our People //

Our People

The Maurice Wilkins Centre's ten current management committee principal investigators are recognised internationally as leaders in their respective fields. The group includes two winners of the Rutherford Medal, the highest honour of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Principal Investigators (management)

DIRECTOR Professor Rod Dunbar
MBChB, PhD, FRSNZ r.dunbar@auckland.ac.nz

Professor Rod Dunbar trained as a doctor at Otago University, before gaining a Health Research Council training fellowship and completing his PhD in Wellington. After six years at the University of Oxford, he returned to New Zealand in 2002 under a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship, to set up his laboratory at the University of Auckland. His main research area is human cellular immunology, especially the development of therapies for cancer that utilise the immune system, such as vaccines against melanoma.

 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-9626-2600

 

DEPUTY DIRECTOR Professor Peter Shepherd
BSc(Hons), PhD, FRSNZ peter.shepherd@auckland.ac.nz

Professor Shepherd’s lab is interested in how defects in signal transduction pathways can lead to the development of cancer and diabetes. He is also specifically interested in understanding how genetic factors in Māori and Pacific populations lead to increased risk of metabolic diseases.

Prof Shepherd earned his degrees at Massey University, then had postdoctoral positions at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. In 2002, while in a faculty positon at University College London, he was named London Young Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the year and has followed this by founding now 3 Biotechnology companies.  Since returning to New Zealand in 2004 his work has focussed on translational research with novel drug discovery programmes in cancer and finding new uses for old medicines.

Prof Shepherd has launched a number of MWC funded outreach initiatives, including the Sugar in Schools campaign and the Professional Teacher Development Days.  He was awarded the 2017 RSNZ Callaghan Medal and the CLNZ NZ Educational Book award, recognising his success as a science communicator. Prof Shepherd has been the deputy director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre since 2013, the Chair of the Queenstown Molecular Biology Society since 2005, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2016.

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar

ORCID ID:0000-0001-9742-5811

 

Professor Antony Braithwaite
MSc(Hons), PhD antony.braithwaite@otago.ac.nz

Professor Antony Braithwaite, from the Department of Pathology at the University of Otago, is an expert in the molecular mechanisms of cancer. His research is focused on the regulation of cell proliferation and cell survival and the role played by the tumour suppressor protein, p53, and in particular a novel oncogenic variant of p53 called delta 133p53. Professor Braithwaite is also a staff scientist at the Children’s Medical Research Institute, based at the University of Sydney, and splits his time between Otago and Sydney.

 

University Profile

ResearchGate profile

 

Professor Dame Margaret Brimble
DNZM, MSc, PhD, FRSNZ, FRSC, FRACI, FNZIC m.brimble@auckland.ac.nz

Professor Dame Margaret Brimble is the Director of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Auckland where her research focuses on two major areas: the synthesis of natural products and peptide chemistry. Dame Brimble discovered the drug candidates trofinetide that is in phase 3 clinical trials for Rett Syndrome (Neuren) and  NNZ2591 (autism). She is co-founder of the cancer immunotherapy company SapVax that has licensed her CLipPA peptide lipidation technology to develop self-adjuvanting peptide based cancer vaccines.  Her peptide chemistry laboratory is New Zealand’s only laboratory accredited by Medsafe to manufacture peptides under cGMP for human clinical trial.

Dame Brimble studied at the University of Auckland, before being awarded a Commonweath Scholarship to complete her PhD at the University of Southampton. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, has received the Rutherford, Hector and MacDiarmid medals (Royal Society NZ) and the Marsden medal (NZ Association of scientists). She was awarded the Sosnovsky Award for Cancer Therapy and Natural Products award from the Royal Society of Chemistry.  She is Past-President of IUPAC Organic and Bimolecular Division, Past-President of International Society of Heterocyclic Chemistry,  Past-Chair of the Rutherford Foundation, Past-Chair PCB Marsden grant panel. She is an Associate-Editor for Organic Letters (Amercian Chemical Society),   a member of the European Research Council Advanced Grants Panel, the Royal Society (London) Fellowship Selection Panel (Chemical Sciences), the Kiwinet return-on-science life sciences investment panel and a member of the Physical Sciences Panel for Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) Assessment. 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar

ORCID ID:0000-0002-7086-4096

Professor Greg Cook
MSc(Hons), DPhil, FRSNZ greg.cook@otago.ac.nz

Professor Greg Cook from the University of Otago is focused on developing bacterial metabolism and energetics as a new target space for drug development to combat bacterial pathogens. He currently works on the mode of action of several preclinical tuberculosis drugs and defining the role(s) of energetic targets in drug resistance. Professor Cook’s projects utilise a full range of modern techniques, including bacteriology, biochemistry, molecular biology, structural biology, transcriptomics, analytical chemistry, and PC3 laboratory experiments. 

 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar

 

Professor Bill Denny
ONZM, MSc, PhD, DSc, FRSNZ, FNZIC b.denny@auckland.ac.nz

Professor Bill Denny is the Director of the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC), and was made a Distinguished Professor at the University of Auckland in 2011. He currently is a leader in the Maurice Wilkins Centre ‘Immuno-oncology’ flagship. His interests include the design and evaluation of small-molecule drugs and he has been involved in the development of 14 drugs to clinical trial. He has been a founding scientist of three biotechnology companies (Proacta Inc, Pathway Therapeutics Ltd and Kea Therapeutics).

He received his PhD (organic synthesis) and DSc (drug design) degrees from the University of Auckland, then accepted a post-doctoral position at Oxford University. Included in Prof Denny’s many achievements are induction into the American Chemical Society’s Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame in 2016. Among his awards are Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), the Rutherford Medal of the Royal Society of New Zealand (1995), the Adrien Albert Medal of the UK Royal Society of Chemistry (2005) and the 2014 Medicinal Chemistry award of the American Chemical Society.

 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

 

Professor Dave Grattan
BSc(Hons), PhD dave.grattan@otago.ac.nz

Professor Dave Grattan from the University of Otago is a neuroendocrinologist, studying interactions between hormones and the brain.  He has a particular interest in the central nervous system regulation of body weight and glucose homeostasis. He is a former president of the New Zealand Society of Endocrinology, and current chair of Neuroendocrinology Australasia, representing our region in the International Neuroendocrine Federation. In 2005, he was awarded the Triennial Medal for Outstanding Research in Physiology from the Physiological Society of New Zealand, and in 2011, was the Otago School of Medical Sciences distinguished researcher of the year. From 2009 to 2014, he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 

 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-5606-2559

Professor Ian Hermans
BSc(Hons), MSc(Distinc), PhD ihermans@malaghan.org.nz

Professor Ian Hermans is Deputy Director of Research at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. The overall goal of his research is to understand the cellular and molecular interactions that lead to effective immunity, and to use this information to design better vaccines. A major focus of this work is on understanding how the immune system can be used to treat cancers. He oversees the institute's extensive cancer vaccine research programme, involving preclinical models of disease, sampling and analysis of human tissues, designing and clinical-grade manufacturing of new vaccines, and conducting clinical trials in cancer patients. New therapies developed within the programme are currently under development for commercial application, and also being assessed for cooperation with other cancer therapies in preclinical models.

 

Institution Profile

ResearchGate Profile

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-7584-887X

Associate Professor Rinki Murphy
MBChB, FRACP, PhD r.murphy@auckland.ac.nz

Associate Professor Rinki Murphy is a leader of the ‘Genetic Predisposition to Obesity and Diabetes in NZ Populations’ flagship research programmes.

Associate Professor Murphy is a Senior Lecturer in medicine at the University of Auckland and a diabetologist and physician at Auckland DHB and Counties Manukau Health. Her clinical research interests include genetics and physiology of diabetes and obesity. Dr Murphy holds a medical degree (MBChB) from the University of Auckland and a PhD in genetics and epigenetics of diabetes from the University of Plymouth (UK). She is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar

Professor Emily Parker
Bsc(Hons), PhD, FRSNZ emily.parker@vuw.ac.nz

Professor Emily Parker  is the Group Leader for the Chemical Biology Research Group at Ferrier Research Institute and a Board Member of Landcare Research Ltd. She received the Easterfield Medal from the NZIC and the Applied Biosystems Award from the NZSBMB. She has also received a National Tertiary teaching excellence award.  Her research team explores the evolution and molecular details of enzymic catalysis and regulation. This spans the areas of chemistry and biochemistry and involves a range of research techniques including small molecule synthesis, protein engineering, and molecular and structural biology. The group focuses on the reaction chemistry and allostery of some key biosynthetic enzymes from pathogenic organisms.

 

University Profile

ResearchGate Profile

Google Scholar