Research Team

Professor George Kannourakis

MB, BS, B(Med)Sc, PhD, FRACP - Honorary

Honorary Director

George oversees all research and administration at the Institute. He has a wealth of experience in cancer cell biology, having obtained his PhD from The University of Melbourne for his research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. George is Adjunct Professor of Cancer Biology at Federation University and has been a practising oncologist and clinician haematologist in the Ballarat community for many years. George has worked at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute in Boston and as a Research Fellow at Harvard University, and he headed the Cancer Research Unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.


Professor Stuart Berzins

BSc (Hons) PhD GCUT

Dorevitch Principal Research Fellow

Stuart has previously conducted research at Monash University, the Harvard Medical School and University of Melbourne. He now leads a research group at the Institute, investigating human immune responses to cancer. He collaborates with national and international research groups and is working with Professor George Kannourakis and other researchers at the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute and Federation University to establish a regional hub of biomedical research. His research group studies specialised cells and molecules that regulate immune responses against cancer. Higher research goals are to determine if there are defects in immune regulation that contribute to different forms of cancer, and to identify immune cells and molecules that could become targets for new immune-based therapies.


Professor Nuzhat Ahmed

BSc Hons (DU), MSc (KUL), PhD (ANU

John Turner Professorial Fellow

Nuzhat joined the Institute in April 2015 and is the John Turner Professorial Fellow. She holds an adjunct professorial position with the Federation University, Ballarat which strengthens links between the Institute and the University. Professor Ahmed is an experienced cell and molecular biologist and brings a wealth of experience to Institute, particularly in cancer biology. She has a long-standing interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms of ovarian cancer spread. She did her postdoctoral research training in Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand, University of Newcastle, Australia, Kanagawa Cancer Centre, Japan and BC Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia in Canada. From 2002-2014 Nuzhat led the Cancer Metastasis Group in Women’s Cancer Research Centre, Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne. Her significant contribution has been in establishing novel interactions of cell adhesion molecules with the signalling pathways in cancer, identifying early stage biomarkers for ovarian cancer screening and understanding the mechanisms of chemoresistance in ovarian cancer patients. These studies have led to several international patents, competitive international and national grants and publications (>70) in reputable cancer journals. Nuzhat has a long-standing interest in understanding the immune cell irregularities in ovarian cancer patients.


Dr Monirul Islam

BSc (Hons), MSc (PhD)​

Senior Scientist (Molecular Biology)

Dr. Monirul Islam joined the Institute in July 2003. Monirul obtained his Bachelor (Hons) and Master degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and his PhD in Molecular Biology from the medical faculty of Nagoya University in Japan. Before joining the Institute, Monirul was working as research associate at the Southern Methodist University, Texas, USA. Monirul also worked as a scientific officer at the Centre for Molecular Biology and Medicine, Melbourne, Australia and as a Science and Technology Agency (STA) fellow at the National Food Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan.

Dr Sharon Olsen

BSc (Hons) PhD

Post Doctorate

Sharon joined the Institute in May 2003. She has worked in the field of cancer research for her entire career. Sharon graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree (Honours) and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. While at St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, her PhD studied parathyroid hormone-related protein and the biology of cancer. She then traveled to Canada to work on chemotherapy resistance by multi drug resistance protein at the Cancer Research Laboratories, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, prior to her return to Australia.

Dr Dilys Leung

B PsySci, PhD

Post Doctorate Researcher

Brendan Toohey



Brendan joined the Institute after working in Melbourne research facilities. In his early research career, he worked at the Austin Research Institute, where he was involved in early human clinical trials of antibody immunoconjugates for the treatment of colon and breast cancers. He then moved on to work with Professor Simon Foote at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, successfully demonstrating ‘proof of concept’ for a novel mass spectroscopy based method for the detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’s). Brendan next became involved in a biotechnology start-up, helping to develop and commercialise a new method for detecting high risk strains of the human papilloma virus using flow cytometry. At the Institute, he has been involved in lung cancer chemotherapy sensitivity trials and is currently investigating a suspected new mechanism of immune cell inhibition caused by cancer cells.

Dr Prashanth Prithviraj


Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Dr Prashanth Prithviraj, who recently completed PhD in cancer biology at The Austin Hospital (Oliva Newton-John Cancer Research Institute) joined the institute in September 2017 as Senior Research Fellow. After earning his medical degree, Prashanth pursued Medical Oncology training at Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital, he furthered his education and completed training with a Fellowship in Medical Oncology at The Austin Hospital in Melbourne. Prashanth has extensive research experience and his other qualifications apart from FRACP include Masters of Science (Biotechnology) from University of Western Sydney and Master of Public Health (Epidemiology and Statistics) from the University of Newcastle. Prashanth has presented at major national and international meetings, and authored publications in prominent cancer related peer reviewed journals. He has a special interest in transitional research and immunotherapy, and is a lead investigator in a number of clinical trials, and also is involved in development and conduct of clinical trials. His research goals are to develop innovative models to establish EMT mechanism as an important biomarker for cancer progression, resistance to therapy and as a biomarker of responsiveness to immune therapy, with the aim of developing/designing EMT-based therapies in cancer.


Megan Earls

BBiomedSc (Hons)

Tissue Coordinator

Megan completed honours in Biomedical Science at the Institute in 2014. She joined the staff in 2015 as the Tissue Bank Coordinator, and her main role is to isolate immune cells from blood, tumour and bone marrow.

Jenée Mitchell

BAppSc (Hons)

Laboratory Assistant

Following graduation from Federation University with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons), Jenée joined the laboratory in May 2012 as part of the team working on histiocytic diseases and has recently submitted her PhD this on the role of T cells in the immune regulation of Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

Dr Morgan Wallace

BSc (Hons) PhD

Visiting Research Fellow

Morgan Wallace is a lecturer in Biomedical science at Federation University and an Honoarary Research Fellow at the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute. Morgan has worked as a research scientist at several leading research institutes including the University of Massachusetts (USA) the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Institute in Melbourne. She is currently working with researchers at the Institute to investigate the role of the immune system in fighting haematological cancers including Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia and Multiple Myeloma.

Dr Jenny West

BSc (Hons) PhD

Visiting Research Fellow

Jenny has a background in cell biology and biochemistry and joined the Institute in 2001 before retiring in 2017. She retains a connecting with the research team as a Visiting Research Fellow in supporting and mentoring researchers in their projects.