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James McKenna Research Fellow, Biochemistry

Current projects

I am currently working on an ARC funded project to investigate the Extracellular vesicles (EVs) of F. graminearum. This project will characterize the cargo of F. graminearum EVs which consists of lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and small molecules. By investigating EVs we hope to elucidate the role that they might play in the infection process of this plant pathogen.

Additionally, with coworkers I am interrogating a library of antimicrobial extracts from Australian native plants. In the future we will be exploiting the library to identify novel proteins or molecules that can be used to control fungi and bacteria in agricultural or medical settings. This project focuses on the in vitro screening against fungi and bacteria followed by semi-purification and assessment of extracts in an in vivo insect model (G. mellonella).

Previous projects

I have recently completed a three year SEIF STEM fellowship investigating the potential of plant defensins to eradicate C. albicans biofilms. This project also tested the ability of plant defensins to treat mixed (polymicrobial) biofilms where a fungi (C. albicans) and a bacteria (S. aureus) are living together in a community to cause infection. This project culminated in the testing of lead defensins a vulvovaginal candidiasis mouse model with an external contract research organization.

Previously I was involved in the assessment of transgenic maize plants for enhanced resistance to fungal pathogens. This project involved the high throughput assessment of primary and T1 generation plants against 4 major maize pathogens (F. graminearum, C. graminicola, C. heterostrophus and E. turcicum). Other areas of interest also include the study of plant cystatins and their synergistic inhibition of fungal growth in combination with other plant antifungal proteins. I am also interested in how plant pathogenic fungi infect and reproduce within their host(s).


Research Areas research areas

selected publications