Entry for:Queensland Women in STEM Prize 2017
1. Please provide a short summary of your research, project or technology.
Snakebite is a massive global burden and is the most neglected of all tropical diseases. This neglect means that there is a poor understanding of the treatment of snakebite. Despite previous research having been conducted on neurotoxins (toxins which affect the nervous system) within snake venom, little to no research has been conducted on coagulatoxins (toxins which affect the blood). Coagulatoxins produce one of two effects: anticoagulant (prevents a blood clot) or procoagulant (promotes a blood clot). My research investigates snake venom coagulatoxins. By exploring the effects of venom on blood this will increase our understanding of our own blood system and the interactions which occur. This research can also lead to the discovery of novel properties which can be further developed into novel drug design in blood medications, aiding in such areas as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
2. Additional Details
I am Australian born and raised in the countryside, where my early engagement with nature and the outside world fueled my desire to be a scientist, in order to contribute to our broader understanding of the world we live in. I have always been interested in the weird and wonderful, and snake venom research seemed a perfect fit. I’m a current Ph.D. student at the University of QLD, St Lucia campus, where I also completed a Bachelor Science in zoology with first class honours in Evolutionary Biology. I have been involved in venom research for almost 5 years with lead venomologist Associate Professor Bryan Fry. Involvement has led to many unique opportunities allowing me to accomplish my dream of becoming a scientist.
List of key collaborators:
Snakebite and cardiovascular diseases have no borders:
As snakebite and cardiovascular disease affects millions of people both internationally and here in Australia, particularly Queensland, my collaborations extend to national and global experts including: my supervisor Associate Professor Bryan Fry, Dr Irina Vetter, Professor Paul Masci, and Professor Glenn King all based here in Brisbane (University of Queensland), as well as Professor Wayne Hodgson based at the University of Melbourne. Global experts include Dr. Nicholas Caswell (UK), Dr. Mettine Bos (The Netherlands) and Dr. HF Kwok (China). Together using our expertise, we hope to provide more effective snakebite treatment, and in doing so, harvest the novel properties within snake venom for their use in novel cardiovascular disease medications.
Summary of track-record:
I was fortunate enough to receive the Australian Post Graduate Award to begin my Ph.D. in 2016 and develop my research career at the University of QLD. In my research career so far, I have been involved in numerous publications, 50% of which are first authorship in leading journals in my field including Toxins, Journal of Molecular Evolution, Journal of Proteomics, and Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. Furthermore, I am an advocate leader within my laboratory, mentoring and teaching many undergraduate students who pass through on summer projects or semester projects, exactly how I started out.
List of publications:
1. Debono, J., Casewell, N.R., Bin, L., Blomberg, S., Kwok, H.F., Fry, B.G. 2017. Coagulating colubrids: Evolutionary, pathophysiological and biodiscovery implications of variations between boomslang (Dispholidus typus) and twig snake (Thelotornis mossambicanus) venoms. Toxins (in press) Impact factor 3.5
2. Debono, J., Xie, B., Violette, A., Fourmy, R., Jaeger, M. and Fry, B.G. 2016. Viper venom botox: the molecular origin and evolution of the waglerin peptides used in anti-wrinkle skin cream. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 84(1), p.8-11. Impact factor 1.8
3. Yang, D.C., Deuis, J.R., Dashevsky, D., Dobson, J., Jackson, T.N., Brust, A., Xie, B., Koludarov, I., Debono, J., Hendrikx, I. and Hodgson, W.C., Josh, P., Nouwens, A., Baillie, G.J., Bruxner, T.J.C., Alewood, P.F., Lim, K.K.P., Frank, N., Vetter, I., Fry, B.G. 2016. The Snake with the Scorpion’s Sting: Novel Three-Finger Toxin Sodium Channel Activators from the Venom of the Long-Glanded Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus). Journal of Molecular Evolution, 8(10), p.303. Impact factor 3.5
4. Debono, J., Cochran, C., Kuruppu, S., Nouwens, A., Rajapakse, N.W., Kawasaki, M., Wood, K., Dobson, J., Baumann, K., Jouiaei, M. and Jackson, T.N., Koludarov, I., Low, D., Ali, S.A., Smith, A.I., Barnes, A., Fry, B.G. 2016. Canopy venom: proteomic comparison among new world arboreal pit-viper venoms. Toxins, 8(7), p.210. Impact factor 3.5
5. Fry, B.G., Undheim, E.A., Ali, S.A., Jackson, T.N., Debono, J., Scheib, H., Ruder, T., Morgenstern, D., Cadwallader, L., Whitehead, D. and Nabuurs, R., van der Weerds, L., Vidal, N., Roelants, K., Hendrikx, I., Pineda Gonzalez, S., Jones, A., King, G.F., Anutunes, A., Sunagar, K. 2013. Squeezers and leaf-cutters: differential diversification and degeneration of the venom system in toxicoferan reptiles. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, 12(7), pp.1881-1899. Impact factor 5.9
6. Jesupret, C., Baumann, K., Jackson, T.N., Ali, S.A., Yang, D.C., Greisman, L., Kern, L., Steuten, J., Jouiaei, M., Casewell, N.R. and Undheim, E.A., Koludarov, I., Debono, J., Low, D., Rossi, S., Panagides, N., Winter, K., Ignjatovic, V., Summerhayes, R., Jones, A., Nouwens, A., Dunstan, N., Hodgson, W., Winkel, K., Monagle, P., Fry, B.G. 2014. Vintage venoms: proteomic and pharmacological stability of snake venoms stored for up to eight decades. Journal of Proteomics, 105, pp.285-294. Impact factor: 3.8