AITHM James Cook University

Location: Townsville Building 47 Room 109

Professor Andreas Lopata

Professor Lopata is a molecular immunologist and Professorial Chair with the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology at the James Cook University and is Theme Leader of ‘Molecular Immunology’ within the Centre for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics’ of the ‘Molecular Immunology’ stream. He leads the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory (MARL) in the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University.

Prof Lopata has more than 27 years’ experience in the molecular immunological analysis of allergenic proteins for better diagnostics and platform knowledge for therapeutic approaches. He has characterised more than 22 novel food allergens, specific to the Australian-Asian region, which are now translated into mainstream diagnostics and therapeutics with leading international industry partners.

Prof Lopata in considered a world leader on seafood allergy within the field of food allergies, has contributed to the development of national and international guidelines, and sits on national and international expert committees of lead professional societies in the field. Prof Lopata is Associate Editor for ‘Molecular Immunology’ (Elsevier) and Regional Associate Editor (Asia Pacific) for the World Allergy Association (WAO) Journal.

Location: Townsville Building 47 Room 109I

Dr. Sandip D. Kamath

Dr Kamath is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow at the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory and affiliated to the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM). Dr Kamath completed his PhD in Biochemistry from James Cook University, Townsville working on the molecular and immunological characterization of allergenic proteins for improved diagnosis of food allergy. He holds a Masters degree in Biotechnology from RMIT University, Melbourne and Bachelors in Pharmacy from the University of Mumbai, India.

His primary research focus is on structural and functional characterization of allergenic proteins, and the development and validation of novel immunotherapeutic candidates for treating food allergy, including natural bioactive compounds, short B-cell and T-cell based peptides and hypoallergenic proteins. Dr Kamath has developed close collaborations with the University of Salzburg and the Medical University in Vienna (Austria) as well as University of North Norway, Tromsoe. Dr Kamath is an active science communicator and is the Associate Editor for Frontiers in Immunology; Vaccines and Molecular Therapeutics.

Location: Townsville Building 47 Room 109I

Dr. Aya Taki

Dr Aya Taki is a Research Fellow at the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory. Dr Aya Taki trained in Vaccinology and Infectious diseases. She has been awarded her Ph.D. at the RMIT University, Melbourne. Her doctoral thesis investigated a novel approach to the construction of vaccines. Her research identified that nanoparticles composed of pure protein have great potential as stimulators of immune responses and therefore the new generation of safe and efficacious antigen delivery system. Dr Aya Taki’s current research focuses on the characterisation of fish allergens and improvement of diagnostic capacity for the development of novel in vitro and in vivo IgE-mediated fish allergy tests. Within her current project, she aims to identify a novel, clinically relevant allergens from commonly ingested fish species in 100 fish allergic Australian children by using proteomic and allergenomic approaches.

Location: Townsville Building 47 Room 109I

Dr. Elecia Johnston

Dr Elecia Johnston is a postdoctoral researcher at the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory. Her current research topics include the identification and characterisation of shellfish allergens, the development of novel diagnostic tools for allergy, and shellfish allergy immunotherapies. Dr Johnston completed her PhD in molecular microbiology at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Her research project involved the characterisation of essential biomolecular interactions in model bacteria and the subsequent design of small molecule inhibitors for the development of novel antimicrobials. Dr Johnston has extensive expertise in molecular biology, biochemistry and proteomics. She has a keen interest in protein structure and function relationships and how understanding these can help to solve problems in human health.

Location: Townsville Building 47 109

Dr. Soccorro Miranda Hernandez

Dr Socorro Miranda-Hernandez is a postdoctoral researcher assisting students and researchers within the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory (MARL), Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. Dr Socorro obtained a PhD in Biochemistry in 2014 from James Cook University and a Bachelor degree in Veterinary Medicine from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico in 2003. Since 2006, she has been working on congenic, transgenic and knockout mouse models of Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Colitis. Her research focus is on developing animal models to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms of autoimmunity and allergy, developing using novel therapies for treating these diseases.

Location: Townsville

Mr. Roni Nugraha

Thesis: Characterisation of Oyster Allergens for Improved Diagnosis of Mollusc Allergy

Roni is a PhD student in the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He attained his Bachelor of Science from the Department of Biochemistry at Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia and completed his Master Degree majoring in Biochemical Engineering at Chung Yuan University, Taiwan. He is also a lecturer at the Department of Aquatic Product Technology, Bogor Agricultural University.

His project involves the combination of allergenomics, high-throughput screening of genomic databases and high-resolution mass spectrometry to identify allergenic proteins from marine invertebrates. This comprehensive discovery pipeline is a significant improvement over current approaches for the identification and characterization of allergenic proteins, providing a new tool for researchers developing better diagnostics and novel immunotherapeutics.

Location: Townsville Building 47 Room 109

Mr. Thimo Ruethers

Thesis: Bio-molecular studies on allergenic proteins causing fish allergy in Australian children for improved diagnosis

Thimo is a PhD student in the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and scholar of the Centre for Food and Allergy Research, Melbourne. Currently he is riding the worldwide wave of food allergy epidemics by tackling fish allergy in Australian children. His Bachelor and Master studies in Biochemistry were accomplished in Germany (Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf) while he conducted research in Australia, Vietnam, and Austria. Thimo’s expertise includes analyzing muscle tissue from Asia-Pacific fish species as well as other vertebrates on molecular and immunological level. He already analysed close to 200 species for their allergenicity and currently works with a cohort of 100 fish-allergic children recruited by Prof. Dianne Campbell at The Children’s Hospital in Westmead, Sydney. His ongoing research will significantly improve diagnostics of fish allergy in Australian children and allergy sufferers worldwide. His activities sit within a multi-disciplinary National Health and Medical Research Council funded project.

Location: Townsville Building 47 Room 109

Ms. Thu Le

Thesis: Identification and molecular characterisation of food toxicology in aquatic products from Vietnam.

Thu joined the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory as a PhD student in 2015. Thu obtained her bachelor of Seafood Processing Engineering at the University of Fisheries, Vietnam in 2004. In 2009, Thu received the Australian Scholarship to follow her master degree in Food Science at the University of Queensland. After graduated, she returned Vietnam and worked as a lecturer major in Food Safety and Human Nutrition at the Faculty of Food Science and Technology, Nong Lam University Ho Chi Minh City. Her PhD project investigates the current situation of food allergy in Vietnam focusing on the epidemiology, aetiology and clinical manifestation of this allergic disease in this population. She is also conducting a parallel study in the North Queensland region to compare the clinical and immunological properties of seafood allergens between Vietnam and Australia. Her research aims to provide clinical and laboratory-based evidences for a better and reliable diagnosis of seafood allergy.

Location: Townsville

Mr. Michael Sheridan

Thesis: Current Approaches in managing food allergy among North Queensland Public Health settings

Michael is an Environmental Health Officer at Townsville Public Health Unit, Townsville Hospital & Health Services, Queensland Health, currently Lead Project Manager for a state-wide 2018 Food Allergy Project. In 2015 Michael won the Early Career 'Environmental Health Officer of the Year Award' recognising his contributions to environmental health, largely due to his development of Australia’s only dedicated food recall notification app, securing affiliations with EHA, Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia, Healthy-Kids, and Australian Food News. In 2016 a manuscript was published in Food Australia journal and offered SIMPLOT seed funding. available from app stores! FoodRecallAus was recently acquired by Beef Ledger.

Michael is presently completing his part-time PhD in the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology on food allergy in the north QLD Public Health System. This incorporates ELISA analysis of undeclared food allergens and labelling compliance; hospital food allergy data analysis for prevalence; and development of better online research tools.

Location: Townsville

Mr. Kunal Pratap

Thesis: Preclinical evaluation of novel therapeutic candidates for food allergy.

Kunal Pratap joined the Molecular Allergy Research Group (MARL) with a PhD scholarship from the the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) in 2017. He completed his Bachelor of Technology ( degree as an engineer majoring in Biotechnology from India. He has worked as a research fellow for four years in Delhi, India on mouse models of various diseases including Asthma, Diabetes, Hepatocellular carcinoma and House dust mite allergy. As part of his PhD he works on the green algae Ulva ohnoi to investigate the efficacy of extracted compounds in a mouse model of food allergy. His PhD work is in collaboration with MBD industries and the Centre for Macroalgal Resources and Biotechnology (MACRO) group at JCU.


Ms. Minnie Jacob

Thesis: Biomarker discovery in Hyper-IgE Syndromes (HIES) and Atopic dermatitis using integrated OMICs approach

Minnie Jacob is a PhD candidate at James Cook University, Australia. Her research entitled “Biomarker discovery in Hyper-IgE Syndromes (HIES) and Atopic dermatitis using integrated OMICs approach” focusses on identifying unique biomarkers with potential diagnostic and therapeutic value to distinguish between the two diseases and to find early biomarkers for better management of this life threatening disease (HEIS). She works at the Department of Genetics, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Saudi Arabia. She is interested in metabolomics in the area of Mendelian genetics, specifically inborn errors of Metabolism (IEM). She has 18 published manuscripts describing her research contribution in the field of human genetics and metabolomics.

Location: Townsville


Mr. Shaymaviswanathan Karnaneedi

Thesis: Characterisation of prawn allergens using bioinformatics and molecular methods.

Shayma is a B.Sc. (Hons.) graduate majoring in Genetics and Genomics within the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences at James Cook University (JCU), Townsville. He conducted his Honours research within the Molecular Allergy Research Lab (MARL), in the department of Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) at JCU. His Honours thesis identified and characterised known and unreported prawn allergens using bioinformatics and molecular methods. This involved assembling and analysing the transcriptome of five most consumed prawn species and subsequent evaluation of their allergenicity and cross-reactivity studies at a molecular level. His research is also affiliated to the ARC Research Hub for Advanced Prawn Breeding at JCU. Shayma is currently a visiting scholar working on more vigorous transcriptome and sequence analysis of the known and unreported allergen he previously identified in his Honours research project. His main research focus is on optimising a pipeline to identify all allergens within a species using bioinformatics tools and consequently find an improved platform for allergen identification.