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Dr Fung Lay Cas Gen/Honorary Research Fellow, LTU Foundation UWA

Dr Fung Lay completed a BSc (Hons) in 1996 in the laboratory of Professor Marilyn Anderson, Department of Biochemistry, La Trobe University. His studies focused on the first characterisation of a floral-specific defensin called NaD1. He continued research in this area for his PhD with Marilyn and later described what would become the first biochemical, molecular and structural characterisation of a novel class of defensins isolated from ornamental tobacco and petunia flowers. These proteins are of interest as they are hardy and withstand harsh treatments such as boiling and extremes of pH, things that would normally destroy proteins. For this work, Fung was awarded a number of conference poster prizes and travel fellowships to present his work, including an invitation to write a review on the topic. This work led to an extended postdoctoral period with Marilyn as she entered the exciting commercial sphere, setting up an Australian biotechnology company, Hexima Ltd (co-founded with La Trobe's Chancellor Professor Adrienne Clarke), to translate, among other research, the potential of plant defensins to create fungal-resistant cotton plants. In 2011, after a 15-year stint with Marilyn pursuing basic and company-driven research (largely funded by the Australian Research Council and Hexima), he moved into his current position as a Research Fellow with Dr Mark Hulett at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science where he continues his research on defensins from plants and humans, investigating their applications in cancer treatment.

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