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 Nuzhat Ahmed

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

John Turner Professorial Fellow

Nuzhat joined the Institute in 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 (>80) in reputable cancer journals. Nuzhat has a long-standing interest in understanding the immune cell irregularities in ovarian cancer patients.


Dr Aparna Jayachandran

BSc, MSc, PhD

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Jayachandran is an internationally recognised cancer researcher, with her most recent appointment prior the Institute was as the Head of the Liver Cancer Unit at the Gallipoli Medical Research Institute at the University of Queensland. She has also held appointments at the Liebig University, Germany and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, University of Melbourne, Latrobe University, and the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute. Her background and expertise in cancer biology, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, cancer stem cells, and organ fibrosis is an asset to the team.


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

JG King Research Fellow

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 Jenée Mitchell

BAppSc (Hons), PhD

Don Mulhallen Cancer Research Fellow

Following graduation from Federation University with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons), Jenée joined the laboratory in 2012 as part of the team working on histiocytic diseases and completing her PhD this on the role of T cells in the immune regulation of Langerhans cell histiocytosis in 2019. She was appointed Post Doctorate Researcher at the Institute in 2020 and continues her work into Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

Dr Rodney Luwor


Senior Research Fellow

Dr Luwor joined the Institute in 2021, bringing with him almost two decades experience in using human cancer models and human patient samples to investigate the genetic and molecular alterations associated with cancer. Further to this Dr Luwor has expertise in developing molecular therapeutics for inhibition of tumour growth and progression. In particular, Dr Luwor has performed pre-clinical, therapeutic evaluation of several agents designed to block tumour growth. More recently, Dr Luwor has expanded his research interests to explore tumour resistance to both molecular targeted therapy and standard chemotherapy.

Dr Sushma Rao

PhD, MSc, BSc

Senior Research Fellow

Dr. Sushma Rao is mass spectrometry applications specialist with extensive experience in proteomics and metabolomics technologies. She brings in a unique skill set of integrating molecular biology, biotechnology, mass spectrometry and data analysis techniques. She completed a PhD University of Melbourne in proteomics/metabolomics mass spectrometry, studying the proteome and metabolome of rice suspension cell cultures during abiotic stress and identified signalling pathways that were most affected. After completing her PhD, she transitioned to apply her skill set in biomedical research. Dr Rao has held previous appointments at Children’s Medical Research Institute – Sydney and the National University of Singapore. Her role prior to commencing at the at FECRI was in the Mass Spectrometry team, leading Proteomic projects for the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. In this role she worked accross various research projects and clinical trials to identify plasma protein biomarkers in research areas ranging from, but not limited to, chronic myeloid leukemia, prostate cancer, cardiovascular research, stroke research, breast cancer, stem-cell research and neurogenetic disorders research. Dr. Rao is very excited to be a part of the amazing team of scientists at FECRI. She will be starting a Multiple Myeloma research project utilising proteomics to study the complexity of this difficult cancer. Additionally, she will be leading mass spectrometry applications across multiple project streams at the Institute, focused on proteomics and metabolomics.

Associate Professor 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.


Dr Jason Kelly

B AppSc Bio Med Sc (Hons)

Post Doctoral Researcher

Dr Farah Ahmady

BBioMedSc (Hons) PhD

Post Doctoral Researcher

Dr Arpita Poddar


Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Dr Arpita Poddar graduated with her PhD in 2021 at RMIT University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Melbourne, where she worked on the application of nanoparticles in cancer treatment. An interdisciplinary researcher – her interests are at the interface of materials science, biology and cancer research. Working in collaboration with NHMRC clinical trials centre in the University of Sydney, Graz University of Technology, Austria, the ALBA Synchrotron, Barcelona and the Elettra Sincrotrone, Italy, she developed non-viral alternatives using nanotech to target prostate cancer cells for gene therapy. She has been a recipient of several prestigious Scholarships/bursaries including CSIR-UGC National Eligibility (Govt of India), CSIRO-RMIT research and RMIT-HDR talent award (PhD program), Top Downloaded Paper 2018-2019 and the Australian Nanotechnology Network travel award (twice) to visit and work in Europe. Dr Poddar has since worked in the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, on understanding the structural biology of genes involved in Alzheimer’s Disease. She has held research fellowship at Monash University where she studied nanomaterials and their interaction with biomolecules. Dr Poddar has established novel nanomaterials as viable, physiologically stable and facile non-viral gene therapy systems, and she is currently applying the delivery systems across different cancer streams with a particular focus on triple negative breast cancer.

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.

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.

Professor Stuart Berzins

BSc (Hons) PhD GCUT

Visiting Research Fellow


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.

Dr Emma Gannan

BBioMedSci(Hons) MBBS(Hons) DipAnat MS(BreastSurg) FRACS BreastSurgANZ

Collaborating Clinician- Ballarat

Dr Emma Gannan is a specialist breast surgeon. Emma has a particular interest in oncoplastic breast surgery and manages all surgical aspects of benign and malignant breast disease. Emma performs the full range of oncoplastic breast surgery, including implant reconstruction. Emma practices multi-disciplinary breast cancer care and has an interest in medical research. Emma also enjoys her role as a lecturer teaching medical students.

Dr Nicole Yap


Collaborating Clinician- Melbourne

Dr Nicole Yap is a Specialist Breast Surgeon and founding director of Australian Breast Care Centre (ABCC), a registered not for profit charity that raises money to support breast cancer awareness and research projects. Dr Yap treats both the cancer and the cosmetic outcome at the same oncoplastic surgery. As a Specialist Breast Surgeon, Dr Yap has the ability to remove and treat the breast cancer whilst maintaining or possibly improving the aesthetic/cosmetic outcome. This only requires development of a rapport with a single surgeon rather than two, making the process more streamlined. Dr Yap is involved with multiple associations including deputy chair of RACS, AMA councillor, President Chinese Medical Association of Victoria, Vice President of Medical Legal Society Victoria and sits on the board of Pink Hope.