Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics
Centre Director: Professor Steve Wilton
Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia
News from the centre
The centre’s core research areas
Research groups within CMMIT are working on topics as diverse as genetic therapies, genomics. motor neurone disease, neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, myositis, multiple sclerosis, cognition and exercise, health economics, sepsis, mathematical modelling of biological processes and wound healing.
Established in 2019, CMMIT has made substantial progress towards its long-term goal of evolving into multi-disciplinary research centre with the range of skills to enable it to address some of the bigger issues facing healthcare today.
CMMIT aims to be adaptable responding to needs as they change. This is reflected in the success of multiple COVID-19 projects that have led to new screening techniques and new therapeutic approaches.
Molecular Therapy (Wilton / Aung-Htut)
Professor Steve Wilton and Dr May Aung-Htut lead a group that focuses on developing novel therapeutic strategies to treat rare inherited or the much more common acquired human diseases by designing genetic drugs (antisense oligonucleotides) to modify gene expression as necessary: suppressing or by-passing disease-causing mutations, switching isoforms or increasing expression.
Precision Nucleic Acid
Therapeutics Associate Professor Rakesh Veedu leads the development of novel therapeutic molecules that facilitate target-specific delivery of drugs or diagnostics to specific disease sites in the body.
Motor Neurone Disease
Professor Anthony Akkari and team are investigating new approaches to the treatment of the fatal motor neurone disease (MND), a disease affecting 350,000 people worldwide.
Neurodegenerative Diseases (including Parkinson's Disease)
Professor Sulev Kõks and his team aim to probe the genetics and molecular pathology of Parkinson’s Disease – with the goal of improving the precision clinical management of patients.
Professor Merrilee Needham and her team are investigating the treatment, genetics and immuno-pathology of immune-mediated myositis, particularly inclusion body myositis.
Clinical Exercise and Cognition
Dr Yvonne Learmonth leads an experienced team of researchers in the fields of biomechanics, physiology, motor control and cognition to promote the development of precision therapies.
Demyelinating Diseases Group (including Multiple Sclerosis)
Clinical Professor Allan Kermode and his team explore the clinical, laboratory, radiological, and immunogentic aspects of multiple sclerosis and related disorders, which affect over 25,000 Australians.
Dr Sarah Rea investigates the functional consequences of genetic changes that are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Dementia and aims to identify novel therapeutic strategies to combat these diseases.
Molecular Therapy (Fletcher)
Following the global breakthrough she and Professor Steve Wilton pioneered, developing compounds to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy as well as a range of other rare disorders, Professor Fletcher and her team research into inherited blindness and neurodegenerative diseases.
Cell-Tissue Systems Modelling
Professor Bruce Gardiner’s research uses computational and mathematical models to integrate the physical, chemical and biological processes underlying diseases such as osteoarthritis, colorectal cancer, acute kidney injury and glaucoma.
Sepsis Diagnostic Research
Dr Andrew Currie leads a collaborative team of clinicians, veterinarians and medical researchers invested in finding new and better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent sepsis in newborns, adults and companion animals.
Economic Evaluation of Disease & Diagnostics
Associate Professor Khurshid Alam leads a group in the field of health economics and health care financing research in Murdoch where they conduct cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis to examine value for money (VfM) and resource-allocation for clinical, laboratory and public health interventions.
Skin Integrity Research Group led by Dr Kylie Sandy-Hodgetts research focuses on the clinical prevention and early identification of surgical wound complications such as surgical site infection and surgical wound dehiscence. The programme includes Phase 1-IV clinical trials, comparative effectiveness studies, validation of diagnostic methods for identification and classification of wound infection, and the development of AI tools to predict at risk patient groups.
Professor Anthony Akkari
Professor Akkari is a pharmacogeneticist and neuromuscular geneticist with 28 years research experience in Australia and the US. He leads his dually based research group at CMMIT and the Perron Institute in developing new strategic approaches to identifying genetic mechanisms and mutations in neurological diseases, with the aim of developing new and personalised treatments for motor neurone disease.
Associate Professor Rakesh Veedu
Associate Professor Veedu has dual appointment as head of Nucleic Acid Therapeutics Research within CMMIT and the Perron Institute. Dr Veedu received his PhD from the University of Queensland after completing his MSc degree from Griffith University. He has over 14 years’ experience in basic and translational research in the field of oligonucleotide therapeutic development, and published >90 articles in reputed journals. His research is focussed on developing novel oligonucleotide-based drugs and diagnostics for tackling rare inherited and acquired diseases including solid cancers and Psoriasis.
Dr Yvonne Learmonth
Dr Learmonth is an accredited physiotherapist and the Academic Chair for Sport and Exercise Science at Murdoch, specialising in physical activity research in neurological conditions. Her research agenda has examined feasibility and efficacy-based interventions for enhancing adherence to physical activity in MS, influences of exercise on symptom management, outcome measurement in MS, and clinical exercise promotion in MS.
Professor Sue Fletcher AO
Professor Fletcher AO is a molecular biologist and Senior Principal Research Fellow who has been integral in pioneering therapeutic antisense oligomer development in partnership with Professor Steve Wilton. Together they created the first two FDA approved therapeutic treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Professor Fletcher’s research interest area has expanded into inherited blindness and neurodegenerative disease. She is a passionate and involved patient and community advocate, as well as a dedicated volunteer for support organisations.
Professor Sulev Kõks
Joining CMMIT and the Perron Institute from Estonia in 2018, Professor Kõks’ research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. He also researches into, and has vast experience in psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoporosis and osteosarcoma. Professor Kõks is a highly published researcher and is an active member of several international research consortia.
Professor Merrilee Needham
Professor Needham is a Consultant Neurologist seeing neuromuscular and myositis patients at Fiona Stanley Hospital, the Perron Institute and IIID at Murdoch University. Professor Needham also leads the dually based Myositis Research Group at CMMIT and the Perron Institute. She is passionate and well versed in all things Inclusion Body Myositis, having a fantastic rapport with her patients and colleagues.
Clinical Professor Allan Kermode
Clinical Professor Kermode is a Consultant Neurologist and Head of the Demyelinating Diseases Research CMMIT and the Perron Institute. Highly awarded and published, Allan’s broad training incorporates not only clinical neurology, clinical immunology, electrophysiology and neuroradiology, but also several years of virology, cellular immunology and molecular biology bench work.
Dr May Aung-Htut
Dr May Aung-Htut is a Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head of the Molecular Therapy Group with Professor Steve Wilton. She is an experienced and dedicated scientist with a proven record of accomplishment in molecular and cell biology. Dr Aung-Htut is the leader of Discovery and Research in the Sarepta Translational Laboratory, developing and refining antisense oligomers targeting inherited and acquired conditions including other muscular dystrophies, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Pompe’s disease, asthma and neuroinflammatory conditions.
Professor Bruce Gardiner
Professor Gardiner has 25 years of computational modelling experience. His expertise is modelling cell-tissue interactions and inter- and intra-cellular communication networks. This requires multidisciplinary expertise beyond biomedical science, and includes material science, mechanics and transport processes (from chemical and mechanical engineering), control systems and applied mathematics.
Dr Sarah Rea
Dr Rea is a Senior Research Fellow and mid-career researcher with 10 years postdoctoral experience. Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying dementia and neurodegeneration. Dr Rea uses innovative analytical techniques to demonstrate changes to key biochemical, cellular and structural components of neurons in response to genetic risk factors.
Dr Andrew Currie
Dr Currie co-heads the Neonatal Infection and Immunity Team with Neonatologist Clinical Prof Tobias Strunk at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccine & Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute and leads the Sepsis Diagnostics Research Group with the CMMIT. As a basic scientist with over 20 years of experience in the fields of immunology and infectious disease, his current research combines current cellular and molecular ‘omics’ methodologies with primary human and animal samples, to understand how the immune system contributes to defence against infection in sepsis.
Associate Professor Khurshid Alam
Khurshid Alam is an Associate Professor in Health Economics at the Murdoch Business School. A/Professor Alam did his PhD in Health Economics from Monash University in 2015. His primary expertise is in cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis to examine value for money (VfM) and resource-allocation for clinical and public health interventions and diagnostic trajectories of rare diseases. His research interests extend to health care financing, health systems, health services, health policy, health equity and global health where he supervises multiple PhD students as a primary supervisor.
Dr Kylie Sandy-Hodgetts
Dr Kylie Sandy-Hodgetts is a Senior Research Fellow leading the Skin Integrity research group at CMMIT. Her research interests are in wound healing, prevention, risk assessment and clinical trials in surgical wound healing and is Chief Investigator of a number of clinical trials Phase I - IV. Dr Sandy-Hodgetts is the Founder and inaugural President of the International Surgical Wound Complications Advisory Panel (ISWCAP), a culmination of her research activity and doctoral work into early identification and prevention of surgical wound complications.