Associate Professor Irina Vetter

Principal Research Fellow - GL

Institute for Molecular Bioscience


I am an NHMRC R.D. Wright Career Development Fellow and Deputy Director of the recently established Centre for Pain Research at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), UQ. My research interests lie in the fields of peripheral pain mechanisms, target identification and analgesic drug discovery. I investigate the contribution of ion channels to sensory neuronal physiology using highly subtype-selective toxins isolated from venomous animals with the aim to develop novel analgesics with improved efficacy and tolerability.

Research Interests

  • Understanding pain pathways
    Pain is a major medical and socio-economic issue affecting one in five Australians. Our research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms behind pain. The current focus of the lab is to use toxins from plants and venomous animals to understand the molecular pharmacology of pain. These toxins are highly selective for ion channels and receptors found in the sensory neurons that detect pain and can potentially be developed into novel analgesics. Our research also investigates the mechanisms contributing to chemotherapy-induced pain, cancer-associated pain, inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and the painful marine toxin disease known as ciguatera. To investigate the neuropharmacology of pain we use a range of techniques including: in vivo pain pathway characterisation, high-content imaging of cultured sensory neurons, high-throughput screening using calcium and membrane potential assays, and traditional pharmacological assays. While all pain has similar symptoms, it is becoming clear that the underlying mechanisms behind pain can vary. Our research has already challenged traditional understanding of pain pathways and sensory neuronal physiology. We work in collaboration with other leading Australian and international researchers to identify novel therapeutic pain pathways and targets. By uncovering these new pain pathways, as well as identifying novel targets on peripheral sensory neurons, we aim to develop more effective pain therapies that treat the underlying cause of the pain, not just the symptoms.


  • PhD, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours), The University of Queensland


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Book Chapter

  • Vetter, Irina, Carter, David, Bassett, John, Deuis, Jennifer R., Tay, Bryan, Jami, Sina and Robinson, Samuel D. (2020). High-throughput fluorescence assays for ion channels and GPCRs. In Md. Shahidul Islam (Ed.), Calcium Signaling 2nd ed. (pp. 27-72) Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-12457-1_3

  • Inserra, Marco, Lavrukhina, Yelena, Jones, Alun, Lewis, Richard J. and Vetter, Irina (2017). Ciguatoxin detection methods and high-throughput assays. In Analysis of food toxins and toxicants (pp. 469-487) Oxford, United Kingdom: Wiley Blackwell. doi:10.1002/9781118992685.ch15

  • Israel, Mathilde R., Tay, Bryan, Deuis, Jennifer R. and Vetter, Irina (2017). Sodium channels and venom peptide pharmacology. In Advances in pharmacology: ion channels downunder (pp. 67-116) Cambridge, MA, United States: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/bs.apha.2017.01.004

  • Lewis, Richard J. and Vetter, Irina (2016). Ciguatoxin and ciguatera. In P. Gopalakrishnakone, Vidal Haddad Jr., Aurelia Tubaro, Euikyung Kim and William R. Kem (Ed.), Marine and freshwater toxins (pp. 71-92) Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-6419-4_13

  • Lewis, Richard J., Vetter, Irina, Cardoso, Fernanda C., Inserra, Marco and King, Glenn (2015). Does nature do ion channel drug discovery better than us?. In Brian Cox and Martin Gosling (Ed.), Ion channel drug discovery (pp. 297-313) Cambridge, United Kingdom: Royal Society of Chemistry. doi:10.1039/9781849735087-00297

  • Fry, B. G., Undheim, E. A. B., Jackson, T. N. W., Georgieva, D., Vetter, I., Calvete, J. J., Schieb, H., Cribb, B. W., Yang, D. C., Daly, N. L., Manchadi, M. L. Roy, Gutierrez, J. M., Roelants, K., Lomonte, B., Nicholson, G. M., Dziemborowicz, S., Lavergne, V., Ragnarsson, L., Rash, L. D., Mobli, M., Hodgson, W. C., Casewell, N. R., Nouwens, A., Wagstaff, S. C., Ali, S. A., Whitehead, D. L., Herzig, V., Monagle, P., Kurniawan, N. D., Reeks, T. and Sunagar, K. (2015). Research methods. In Venomous reptiles and their toxins: evolution, pathophysiology and biodiscovery (pp. 153-214) New York, NY, United States: Oxford University Press.

  • Fry, Bryan G., Koludarov, Ivan, Jackson, Timothy N. W., Holford, Mandë, Terrat, Yves, Casewell, Nicholas R., Undheim, Eivind A. B., Vetter, Irina, Ali, Syed A., Low, Dolyce H. W. and Sunagar, Kartik (2015). Seeing the woods for the trees: understanding venom evolution as a guide for biodiscovery. In Glenn F. King (Ed.), Venoms to drugs: venom as a source for the development of human therapeutics (pp. 1-36) Cambridge, United Kingdom: Royal Society of Chemistry. doi:10.1039/9781849737876-00001

  • Vetter, Irina, Hodgson, Wayne C., Adams, David J. and McIntyre, Peter (2015). Venoms-based drug discovery: bioassays, electrophysiology, high-throughput screens and target identification. In Glenn F. King (Ed.), Venoms to drugs: venom as a source for the development of human therapeutics (pp. 97-128) Cambridge, United Kingdom: Royal Society of Chemistry. doi:10.1039/9781849737876-00097

  • Vetter, Irina, Zimmermann, Katharina and Lewis, Richard J. (2014). Ciguatera toxins: pharmacology, toxicology and detection. In Luis M. Botana (Ed.), Seafood and freshwater toxins: pharmacology, physiology, and detection 3rd ed. (pp. 925-950) Boca Raton, FL, United States: CRC Press.

  • Vetter, I. and Lewis, R. J. (2014). Toxicology of ciguatoxins. In Toxins and biologically active compounds from microalgae: Volume 2: biological effects and risk management (pp. xx-xx) Boca Raton, FL, United States: CRC Press.

  • Deuis, Jennifer, Vetter, Irina and Zimmermann, Katharina (2013). Characterizing response properties of cutaneous nociceptors using in vitro skin-nerve preparations. In Hermann Handwerker and Lars Arendt-nielsen (Ed.), Pain models: translational relevance and applications (pp. 33-46) Washington, United States: IASP Press.

  • Vetter, Irina (2012). Development and optimization of FLIPR high throughput calcium assays for ion channels and GPCRs. In Md Shahidul Islam (Ed.), Calcium signaling (pp. 45-82) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-2888-2_3

  • Wingerd, Joshua S., Vetter, Irina and Lewis, Richard J. (2012). Voltage-gated sodium channels as therapeutic targets.. In Luis M. Botana and Mabel Loza (Ed.), Therapeutic targets: Modulation, Inhibition and Activation. (pp. 63-122) Hoboken NJ, United States: John Wiley and Sons.

  • Vetter, Irina and Lewis, Richard J. (2011). Natural product ligands of TRP channels. In Md. Shahidul Islam (Ed.), Transient receptor potential channels (pp. 41-85) New York, United States: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0265-3_3

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision