Dr Danushka Wijesundara

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science

Affiliate Research Fellow

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
d.wijesundara@uq.edu.au
+61 7 344 32597

Overview

I completed my Bachelor of Biotechnology with First Class Honours at the Australian National University (ANU) during 2008. During my honours, I became interested in understanding ways to best harness the immune system in combating viral infections. Consequently, I embarked on a PhD project at The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU during 2010 to understand ways to improve the efficacy of genetically modified and safe pox viral vaccines to target human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). I completed this project during 2014 and worked as a an Early Career Fellow (sponsored by The Hospital Research Foundation) at the University of Adelaide to develop safe and effective vaccines against HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and Zika virus. I joined the The University of Queensland during May, 2019 to develop a 'Rapid Response Vaccine Pipeline' (sponsored by The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)) to target emerging/re-emerging viral infections using a prioprietary 'Molecular Clamp' vaccine technology. My career objective is to develop vaccines that can be effective in protective humans against viral infections.

Research Impacts

As an early career researcher (PhD awarded in 2014), I have published 30 peer-reviewed manuscripts, been the recipient of 16 competitive academic awards, supervised several higher degree research students and presented mainly as a speaker in 18 national/international conferences. Three of the academic awards were presented to me in consecutive Australian Centre for HIV and hepatitis virology (ACH2) conferences (2015, 2017 and 2018), which is the premier national meeting for HIV and hepatitis basic and translational research in Australia. I have also been a chief investigator in 8 awarded grants and am the recipient of an Early Career Fellowship from The Hospital Research Foundation. I received one of these grants as the Principal Investigator during 2019 from the Channel 7 Children's Research Foundation (co-sponsored by The Hospital Research Foundation). Recently, Dr. Grubor-Bauk, Prof. Gowans and I have received a provisional patent for a highly protective vaccine that target the non-structural protein 1 (NS1) of Zika virus which received the support of a Commercial Acceleration Scheme Grant (The University of Adelaide) this year.

I was invited to speak in 4 departmental seminars (2 in the USA: Wadsworth Center, New York and Louisiana State University, New Orleans), have delivered a lecture at The Albany Pharmacy College, New York, USA, and presented to the community in numerous occasions (e.g. Science in the Pub, Science Alive, radio interviews with Coast FM (Adelaide),etc.) regarding scientific endeavours and controversies. I have reviewed manuscripts for publication in 13 peer-review journals (e.g. Scientific Reports, Frontiers in Immunology, Immunology and Cell Biology, etc.) and been an external assessor for 7 NHMRC project grant applications. I have also been fortunate enough to collaborate with the industry (e.g. Imaxio and MuPharma) and many prestigious academics (e.g. Prof. Andrew Lloyd (The University of New South Wales), Prof. Dan Barouch (Harvard Medical School) and Prof. Chris Parish (The Australian National University).

I have actively contributed to research and improving the community's understanding about vaccine research. I wish to continue on this trajectory and contribute productively to science and the community as an employee at UQ.