Primary research interest

Drug design and development, medicinal chemistry, synthetic organic chemistry (small molecules, peptides, peptidomimetics), molecular probes as tools, labelled compounds for quantitation, commercialisation.

Two primary areas of focus:
  • Modulating inflammasomes through novel drug discovery
  • Tackling antimicrobial resistance through targeting pathogenic fungi of global concern

About me

My current positions at The University of Queensland (UQ) are Associate Dean Research and Deputy Executive Dean, Faculty of Science (FoS); Research Group Leader at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biology (SCMB) and Affiliate Professor at The Institute for Molecular Biosciences (IMB). I am also an Adjunct Professor of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India.

I graduated from the University of St Andrews, Scotland (1996) as top student in my year with 10 academic awards and First Class Honours degree in Organic Chemistry with Industry Placement at Ciba Agrochemical Division in Basel Switzerland. I then completed a commercially focused degree and PhD (2000) in bio-organic chemistry, at the University of St Andrews, this included bioactive natural product synthesis, enzyme mechanistic studies and synthesis of labelled compounds. During my PhD I worked with University of Aberdeen on anticancer properties, Scottish Crop Research Institute on quantitation studies and also completed an additional placement, due to the Ettie Steele Award, at the ETH in Zurich with Professor Andrea Vasella investigating synthesis of novel beta glucosidase inhibitors.

I have a decade of experience (2000-2010) working in UK biotechnology and drug discovery industry including senior leadership roles; Tripos Discovery Research Ltd, ThermoFisher Scientific and most recently as Head of Preclinical Drug Discovery Programs at Cyclacel Ltd focused on oncology targets. I moved to Australia to work at UQ initially as Head of Medicinal Chemistry in the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery at IMB (2011-2018). I was appointed as Professor in 2018 and Research Group Leader and Director of Biotechnology Programs at SCMB (2018-2022), Interim Deputy Associate Dean Research FoS (Oct 2022 - Mar 2023), Interim Associate Dean Research FoS (Mar 2023 - Jun 2023). I was appointed to my current role in Jun 2023.

Research focus and collaborations

My research group is highly collaborative and focuses on early stage and translational drug discovery and development across a broad range of disease areas. We have key expertise in design and synthesis of bioactive compounds either as a result of structure based drug design or through isolation and development of natural products. We have advanced medicinal chemistry expertise founded from my industrial background but we are also skilled in development of probes and tool compounds to elucidate mode of action, to image for biodistribution or diagnostic purposes or for quantitation/confirmation of metabolites.

Inflammation drives many different diseases of unmet medical need. We have several projects focused on design and development of small molecules to modulate activity of the innate immune system (targets include NLRP3, AIM2, ASC, NLRX1). This can lead to therapeutics across a range of diseases including asthma, COPD, Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and many others.

There has been an explosion in occurrence of life threatening drug resistant and multidrug resistant fungal infections and for some there is no available treatment. We are developing molecules (small molecules, peptides and peptidomimetics) to target these deadly pathogens.

Funded projects

  • USA Department of Defense (2023-2025): Under Embargo.
  • NHMRC Ideas Grant (2022-2024): Inhibiting ASC with Small Molecules for Treatment of Inflammatory Diseases. Total value of grant $1,061,883.
  • University of Queensland RSP (2021-2022): Novel Photoactivatable NLRP3 Inhibitors. Total value of grant $50,000.
  • NHMRC Ideas Grant (2020-2023): Novel Broad Spectrum Antifungals Active Against Drug Resistant Candida Auris. Total value of grant $694,943.
  • NHMRC Project Grant (2018-2022): Validating the NLRP3 Inflammasome as a Therapeutic Target in Motor Neuron Disease. Total value of grant $815,249.
  • NHMRC Development Grant (2017-2020): Novel NLRP3 Inhibitors for Asthma Therapy. Total value of grant $959,500.
  • NHMRC Project Grant (2017-2019): Inflammatory pathways to liver fibrosis in nonalcoholic and alcoholic steatohepatitis: reversal by NLRP3. Total value of grant $574,000.
  • Michael J. Fox Foundation (2016-2018): Blocking Inflammasome induced neuroinflammation in PD with a potent, orally available small molecule. Total value of grant $1,345,000.

Teaching interests

I have studied Secondary Teaching at the University of Dundee (1 year FTE Postgraduate Certificate of Secondary Education) and Tertiary Teaching at The University of Queensland (0.5 year FTE GCertHEd). In addition I have completed a 1 year National Excellence in Higher Education Leadership qualification through NEELI.

The University of Queensland is consistently ranked ranked top 10 in the world for Biotechnology (Shanghai rankings 2017-2023). I Directed all UQ Biotechnology Programs (2018-2023) which included Bachelors, Honours, Masters program suite, Doctor of Biotechnology. I redesigned and updated the curriculum, provided strategic direction and leadership alongside design, coordination and teaching of undergraduate/postgraduate programs and postgraduate research supervision. I promoted the Biotechnology program nationally and internationally, including a strong focus on international articulation partner agreements, domestic high school engagement and also building new industry partnerships. This has led to successful, rapid and sustained expansion of the Biotechnology suite at UQ.

CHEM1200 – Chemistry 2
CHEM2052 – Chemical Biology
CHEM3016 – Experimental Chemistry 2
CHEM6520 – Chemical Biology

BIOT2002 – Issues in Biotechnology
BIOT7033 – Issues in Biotechnology
BIOT7040 – Biotechnology IP Case Studies
BIOT7060 – Frontiers in Medical Biotechnology

Acheivements and awards

  • I am a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher (2020-2023).
  • My research at The University of Queensland has led to 4 patents all have proceeded to national phase, many are now granted and all have been licensed.
  • I am an inventor of patented research which has led directly to founding of 2 spinout companies from The University of Queensland, Gertrude Biomedical Pty Ltd. and Inflazome Ltd.
    • Gertrude Biomedical Pty Ltd. are based in Melbourne and are an early-stage biotechnology company developing inhibitors of the SOX18 transcription factor to prevent cancer growth and metastasis.
    • Inflazome Ltd. was founded on NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors in one of the largest biotech Series A investments (A$22 million) for intellectual property from any Australian university. The commercialisation was co-led by two top global life science investment firms, Novartis Venture Fund and Fountain Healthcare Partners. I was a major contributor to this commercialisation, named on the licence agreement and, as inventor, receive financial return based on success of the series. Inflazome Ltd. was sold to Roche in Sept 2020 for >A$600 million up front payment with additional milestone payments as the series progresses. The total deal is undisclosed. This was the largest deal of its kind in Australian and Irish history.
  • 2020 SCMB Award for External Engagement
  • 2019 Finalist for Women in Technology Oustanding Achievement Award
  • 2017 Winner of IMB Impact Award (Leadership)
  • 2017 Finalist for IMB Impact Award (Innovation)
  • 2016 Finalist for IMB Impact Award (Leadership and Mentorship)
  • 2016 National Excellence in Higher Education Leadership Scholarship
Board and Committee Membership
  • President Elect of the Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology Division, RACI (current)
  • Elected Member of the Board of Directors for the National Professional Science Masters Association USA (2019-2022)
  • Industry Advisory Board, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (2018-current)
  • Advisory board, Protein Expression Facility (2018-current)
  • Academic Board, The University of Queensland (2023-current)
  • Defense and Space Committee, The University of Queensland (2023-current)
  • Energy Transitions Committee, The University of Queenland (2023-current)
  • AIBN's Biologics Translational Network, The University of Queenland (2023-current)
  • Chair of Faculty of Science Research Committee, The University of Queensland (2023-current)
  • Faculty of Science Senior Executive Committee, The University of Queensland (2023-current)
  • Senior Executive Committee, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (2022-2023)
  • Organising committee for RACI National Congress, and session chair, 2022
  • Chair of Indian Institute of Technology Delhi-UQ Industry connect workshop 2021
  • Faculty of Science High School Engagement Management Committee (2021-2023)
  • Chair of National Professional Science Masters Association affiliations committee (2019-2022)
  • International Advisory Group, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (2019-2022)
  • Teaching and Learning Committee, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (2018-current)
  • Organising Committee for the RACI Medicinal Chemistry Division National Meeting Nov 2018 (responsible for sponsorship)
  • Work Integrated Learning committee, The University of Queensland (Nov 2018-2023)
  • SAGE Athena SWAN Pilot Organisation and Culture Working Party at The University of Queensland (2018)
  • IMB Safety Committee Member (2016-2018)


  1. The University of Queensland (2018), Inhibitors of SOX 18 protein activity for treating angiogenesis- and/or lymphangiogenesis. WO2018112545 (Nationals: this patent family covers 8 jurisdictions).
  2. The University of Queensland (2018). Preparation of sulfonylureas, especially N-[(1,2,3,5,6,7-Hexahydro-s-indacen-4-yl)carbamoyl]benzenesulfonamides, as dual insulin secretagogues and NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors. WO2018215818 (Nationals: this patent family covers 7 jurisdictions).
  3. The University of Queensland; The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and the other Members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth Near Dublin (2017). Sulfonylureas and related compounds and use of the same. WO2017140778 (Nationals: this patent family covers 15 jurisdictions).
  4. The University of Queensland; The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and the other Members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth Near Dublin (2016). Preparation of sulfonylureas and related compounds as inhibitors of NLRP3 inflammasome activation for the treatment of diseases. WO2016131098 (Nationals: this patent family covers 30 jurisdictions).
  5. Merck GMBH (2005). Preparation of aroyl-O-piperidine derivatives as microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP) and/or apoprotein B (ApoB) inhibitors useful in the treatment of dyslipidemia and related diseases. WO2005121091 (Nationals: this patent family covers 10 jurisdictions).
  6. Merck GMBH (2004). N-Benzodioxolyl, N-benzodioxanyl and N -benzodioxepinyl arylcarboxamide derivatives and pharmaceutical compositions comprising them. WO2004037806 (Nationals: this patent family covers 14 jurisdictions).

Featured publications

Williamson, R.; Munro, T.; Ascher, D.; Robertson, A.; Pregelj, L.; Are Manufacturing Patents to Blame for Biosimilar Market Launch Delays? Value in Health, Accepted 5 Jan 2024.

Jing, W.; Pilato, J. L.; Kay, C.; Feng, S.; Tuipulotu, D. E.; Mathur, A.; Shen, C.; Ngo, C.; Zhao, A.; Miosge, L. A.; Ali, S. A.; Gardiner, E. E.; Awad, M. M.; Lyras, D.; Robertson, A. A. B.; Kaakoush, N. O. and Man, S. M.; Clostridium septicum α-toxin activates the NLRP3 inflammasome by engaging GPI-anchored proteins. Science Immunology, 2022, 7 (71), eabm1803.

Hill, J. R., Shao, X., Massey, N. L., Stauff, J., Sherman, Phillip S., Robertson, A. A. B.* and J. H. Scott, P.* Synthesis and evaluation of NLRP3-inhibitory sulfonylurea [11C]MCC950 in healthy animals. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2020, 30 (12) 127186.

Coll, R.C.; Hill, J.R.; Day, C.J.; Zamoshnikova, A.; Boucher, D.; Massey, N.L.; Chitty, J.L.; Fraser, J.A.; Jennings, M.P.; Robertson, A.A.B.* and Schroder, K.*; MCC950 directly targets the NLRP3 ATP-hydrolysis motif for inflammasome inhibition. Nature Chemical Biology, 2019, 15, 556-559.

Chitty, J. L.; Butler, M. S.; Edwards, D. J.; Cooper, M. A.; Fraser, J. A.; Robertson, A. A. B.; Structure activity relationships of octapeptin C4 against Cryptococcus species. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 2018, 62 (2), e00986-17.

Salla, M.; Butler, M. S.; Massey, N. L.; Reid, J. C.; Cooper, M. A.; Robertson, A. A. B.; Synthesis of deuterium-labelled analogues of NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor MCC950. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2018, 28(4), 793-795.

Hill, J. R.; Coll, R. C.; Sue, N.; Reid, J. C.; Dou, J.; Holley, C. L.; Pelingon, R.; Dickinson, J. B.; Biden, T. J.; Schroder, K.; Cooper, M. A.; Robertson, A. A. B., Sulfonylureas as concomitant insulin secretagogues and NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors. ChemMedChem, 2017, 12 (17), 1449-1457.

Salla, M.; Butler, M. S.; Pelingon, R.; Kaeslin, G.; Croker, D. E.; Reid, J. C.; Baek, J. M.; Bernhardt, P. V.; Gillam, E. M.; Cooper, M. A.; Robertson, A. A. B., Identification, synthesis, and biological evaluation of the major human metabolite of NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor MCC950. ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2016, 7 (12), 1034-1038.

Arbore, G.; West, E. E.; Spolski, R.; Robertson, A. A. B.; Klos, A.; Rheinheimer, C.; Dutow, P.; Woodruff, T. M.; Yu, Z. X.; O'Neill, L. A.; Coll, R. C.; Sher, A.; Leonard, W. J.; Kohl, J.; Monk, P.; Cooper, M. A.; Arno, M.; Afzali, B.; Lachmann, H. J.; Cope, A. P.; Mayer-Barber, K. D.; Kemper, C., T helper 1 immunity requires complement-driven NLRP3 inflammasome activity in CD4(+) T cells. Science, 2016, 352 (6292), 1424-U95.

Coll, R. C.; Robertson, A. A. B.; Chae, J. J.; Higgins, S. C.; Munoz-Planillo, R.; Inserra, M. C.; Vetter, I.; Dungan, L. S.; Monks, B. G.; Stutz, A.; Croker, D. E.; Butler, M. S.; Haneklaus, M.; Sutton, C. E.; Nunez, G.; Latz, E.; Kastner, D. L.; Mills, K. H. G.; Masters, S. L.; Schroder, K.; Cooper, M. A.; O'Neill, L. A. J., A small-molecule inhibitor of the NLRP3 inflammasome for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Nature Medicine, 2015, 21 (3), 248.