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Molecular Microbiology Lab Members

Professor Peter White

Professor Peter White

UNSW Australia

Phone: 9385 3780
E-mail: p.white@unsw.edu.au

Professor Peter White graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biotechnology from King's College London (1992), and completed a PhD at University College, London (1996) in molecular microbiology and protein biochemistry. In 1996, he started a period of Postdoctoral research at Macquarie University, Sydney, as a recipient of a Royal Society Fellowship. In 1998, he joined the Virology Division, Prince of Wales Hospital as Hepatitis Group Leader until 2002. In January 2003, Pete joined UNSW and established a molecular microbiology research group and laboratory within the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. He now leads a highly successful research team attracting substantial peer-reviewed and industry funding, as well as Postgraduate and Honours students. The main research areas of the lab are development of antivirals, tracking pandemic strains and viral evolution. In addition to leading the research group, Pete is also the course Coordinator and lecturer for the third year science course Viruses and Disease (MICR3061), here at UNSW.

RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION

Norovirus is responsible for around 219,000 deaths each year, mostly killing children across the developing world. There are currently no commercially available vaccines or antivirals available for treating norovirus patients.
Since the first global pandemic of acute gastroenteritis in the mid-1990s, Peter White's group has been instrumental in identifying and tracing the cause - pandemic GII.4 Noroviruses. Seminal work by the group has shown that the emergence of pandemic GII.4 Noroviruses is driven by two factors; i) the generation of point mutations in antigenic regions of the viral capsid (antigenic drift), in an analogous manner to influenza, and ii) through recombination between two Noroviruses during a co-infection. Current research from the group on both human and mouse norovirus involves development of antiviral agents and diagnostic systems, and research into the host innate immune response, molecular epidemiology and replication. The discovery of the recent pandemic strain of norovirus, Sydney 2012, attracted significant media attention both nationally and internationally in early 2013.
Prof White's group has identified a range of potential antiviral compounds for further development, including the discovery of two broadly active antivirals that work across many human viruses and bacteriophages. Prof White has contributed several landmark publications in relation to human virology mainly in the hepatitis C virus and norovirus fields.

You can read more about Prof. White on the UNSW Gateway website.

Grace Yan (PhD Student)

UNSW Sydney

E-mail: grace.j.yan@unsw.edu.au

Grace majored in biochemistry and microbiology before detouring to undertake her Honours in pharmacology focusing on computer-aided drug discovery for allosteric modulators of biogenic amine receptors. She began her PhD in Prof White’s lab in 2017 and one aspect of her project involves monitoring the molecular epidemiology of circulating norovirus in Australia.

Grace is also continuing her research in computer-aided drug discovery and broadly studies the putative binding site/s and interactions of non-nucleoside inhibitors with the aim of identifying broad-spectrum non-nucleoside inhibitors for caliciviruses.

Emma Harding (PhD Student)

UNSW Sydney

E-mail: e.harding@unsw.edu.au

Emma majored in microbiology and completed honours in the White lab investigating broad-spectrum antivirals against positive sense RNA viruses, focussing on mosquito-borne flaviviruses including Zika virus, Dengue virus and West Nile virus. Her project involved expressing recombinant viral RdRp in transformed bacterial cells and screening them against an array of antiviral compounds with the aim of identifying drugs that could inhibit Flaviviridae.

Emma's current research focusses on the distribution, evolution and function of endogenous viral elements in vertebrate genomes. With an interest in marsupials, she investigates the prevalence and transcription of endogenous viral elements from RNA viruses in cells.

 

Tanu Sridhar (PhD Student)

UNSW Sydney

E-mail: t.sridhar@unsw.edu.au

Tanu completed her Economics and Science degrees at UNSW, with Honours in molecular biology. Her honours research focused on the structural and sequence specificity of UV-induced DNA damage.

Currently, she is focused on the bioinformatic search for novel viruses in bats. Bats are a prominent reservoir of human pathogenic viruses with zoonotic and pandemic potential yet not much is known about the diverse range of viruses that they naturally harbor. Tanu aims to discover new viruses from a variety of bats and assess their human pathogenic potential.

 

Lewis Mercer (PhD Student)

UNSW Sydney

Email: s.qi@student.unsw.edu.au

Lewis joined White Lab during honours and worked on developing a qPCR assay for the detection and enumeration of the parasites Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts. This project aimed to improving water testing in collaboration with BioPoint and investigating the effect gamma-irradiated cysts have on PCR compared to non-irradiated cysts.

Currently, Lewis is discovering novel viruses and endogenous viral elements in two ancient fish lineages; jawless fish and lobe-finned fish, and ray-finned fish. Lewis aims to study the evolution of ancient viruses and their relation to modern fish viruses.

 

Jason Lin (Honours Student)

UNSW Sydney

E-mail: jason.lin1@student.unsw.edu.au

Jason is an honours student majoring in microbiology and genetics. He joined the White lab in 2021 after enjoying the Virus and Disease course in 2020. His project aims to express the SARS-CoV2 polymerase in an E. coli expression system and purify active protein. Following this, Jason will screen polymerases with approved antiviral compounds to find effective broad-spectrum inhibitors against positive sense RNA viruses.

Jason is also investigating endogenous viruses in monotremes; the platypus and short-beaked echidna. This study will identify viruses circulating millions of years ago, and inform on some of the viral selection pressures these animals have faced.