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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.


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.

Tulio Macado Fumian (Post Doc)

UNSW Australia

E-mail: t.machadofumian@unsw.edu.au

Tulio graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy from Fluminense Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He then continued with a Master Science and PhD degree at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. Since 2012, Tulio has been a Public Health Technologist working at a Brazilian Government Institution. His research looks at the viral etiological agents of acute gastroenteritis affecting children in Brazil, with a focus on norovirus molecular epidemiology and surveillance of pandemic strains, as well as studies of environmental virology.

In 2017, Tulio was awarded a Brazilian Post Doc Fellowship (CAPES) and began his project in Prof White's group. One aspect of his research involves the identification of antiviral compounds against feline caliciviruses, a highly prevalent cat virus that causes vesicular and respiratory disease. Tulio is also studying the evolution of norovirus during 20 years in Brazil, and the detection of different genotypes of norovirus from wastewater samples.

Jen Lun

Jennifer Lun (PhD Student)

UNSW Australia

E-mail: j.lun@unsw.edu.au

Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Hons I) at UNSW and continued in 2015 with a PhD in the PW lab. She is involved in the development of PCR-based molecular methods with process controls for the detection of viruses in environmental samples. The current process of virus detection in water samples involves the costly concentration of hundreds of litres of water prior to analysis. In collaboration with Melbourne water, Jen has developed more sensitive methods for virus quantification aid risk assessment studies and analyses. In addition, Jen is a part of the norovirus surveillance team where she monitors the molecular epidemiology of circulating norovirus (NoV) in Australia. Norovirus is a significant cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in child care facilities, nursing homes, healthcare settings and the purpose of her investigation is to genetically analyse the viruses to see when new ones emerge to cause outbreaks.
Jen enjoys all things sweet; you will always find heavy sugar-based food in her vicinity!

 Nat Netzler

Natalie Netzler (PhD Student)

UNSW Australia

E-mail: n.netzler@unsw.edu.au

Nat graduated with a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree with first class Honours from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Her Master's thesis focused viral proteins involved in cell-to-cell movement of Potexviruses within plant hosts. After completing her Masters, she worked as a Research Assistant for Genesis Research & Development in Auckland for three years before taking a ten year break from science to work in other industries including IT and creative design.
In 2014 she was awarded an Australian Post-Graduate Award (APA) and a Research Excellence Award and began her PhD candidature in Prof White's group.
Nat's PhD project is focused on identifying broad spectrum antivirals to treat a wide range of viral infections. In particular her project focuses on caliciviruses, which cause diseases in a range of human and mammalian hosts. She is continuing efforts to develop small compound non-nucleoside inhibitors against norovirus. Nat is also currently investigating repurposing hepatitis C virus antivirals for treating norovirus, with an aim to find a norovirus antiviral scaffold for further development.

 Dan Enosi  

Daniel Enosi Tuipolutu (PhD Student)

UNSW Australia

E-mail: d.enosi@unsw.edu.au

Daniel studied a B.Med Sci (Hons I) majoring in Microbiology and Immunology. He began his PhD in the PW lab in 2015 broadly looking at the innate immune response to murine norovirus (MNV) infection. Norovirus is the leading viral agent of gastroenteritis worldwide however, culturing human norovirus has inherent limitations and the use of murine norovirus serves as an ideal model to study innate immunity.
One aspect of his research involves identifying the effect of MNV infection on key signalling mediators of the type I interferon response using RNA-sequencing. Daniel is also investigating the effectiveness of TLR7 agonists against calicivirus infections.

 Alice Russo

Alice Russo (PhD Student)

UNSW Australia

E-mail: a.russo@unsw.edu.au

Alice is undertaking Honours in Prof White's lab as part of a Bachelor of Science (Advanced), majoring in Microbiology. Her Honours project falls in the research area of Paleovirology, in particular investigating endogenous viral elements (EVEs), which are viral sequences present in host genomes. They are a "fossil record" of past infections and reveal new information about the evolutionary history of viruses. Alice's project involves a bioinformatics-based search for EVEs in the genome of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). The mosquito is highly invasive and is a vector of many human diseases, including West Nile virus and Zika virus. Mosquito EVEs are important because they could assist in developing biocontrol strategies, by finding viruses that infect them. In addition, EVEs could have implications for the mosquito's immune function and how they deal with infecting viruses. Alice is focusing on EVEs from the family Flaviviridae that are insect-specific, with an aim to express ancient viral proteins in the lab for further study.
As another part of her project, Alice working on recombinant protein expression of Flaviviridae polymerases (e.g. hepatitis C virus and Zika virus) for antiviral screening strategies.


Grace Yan (PhD Student)

UNSW Australia

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.

Kate Jones (Honours student)

UNSW Australia

E-mail: kate.jones@student.unsw.edu.au

Kate graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing in 2010 from the University of Newcastle, Australia. The following year she commenced work in the Radiology department of John Hunter Hospital where she worked both in general Radiology as well as the interventional suite.

In 2015 she decided to return to university life commencing a Science degree through the University of Newcastle, Australia. Moving to Sydney in 2016 she enrolled in an Advanced Science degree majoring in Microbiology at the University of New South Wales. As part of her Advanced Science course Kate is undertaking Honours in Professor Peter White’s Lab monitoring the molecular epidemiology of circulating norovirus in Australia. Another part of her project involves monitoring the molecular epidemiology of circulating adenovirus in Australia.

Emma Harding (Honours Student)

UNSW Australia

Email: e.harding@student.unsw.edu.au

Emma is an honours student completing a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) majoring in Microbiology. Her Honours project is to work towards the development of antivirals for flavivirusesparticularly the mosquito-borne pathogens Zika virus, Dengue Virus and West Nile Virus for which there are currently no antivirals available. Her project will be focusing on antivirals that target the RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase (RdRp) – a protein integral to the viral replication cycle. Her project involves 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.