In Focus: University of New South Wales

In Focus: University of New South Wales

Learn more about the institutes we support through our In Focus series.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is one of the world’s top 50 medical faculties and fifth in Australia (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018).

UNSW Medicine is building the future of healthcare where its leading educators, researchers and clinicians are translating discoveries into breakthrough cures, therapies and treatment strategies for childhood cancer.

In addition, the faculty’s affiliated research centres and institutes foster research excellence and collaboration, nationally and globally, and drive innovation in every aspect of their research programs. This includes the Children’s Cancer Institute, the only independent medical research institute in Australia dedicated to childhood cancer.

Meet the scientists we've funded at The University of New South Wales

Dr Joanna Fardell

Dr Joanna Fardell is an early career-researcher and Post-doctoral Research Fellow with the Behavioural Sciences Unit, School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of NSW. She completed her PhD at the University of Sydney, School of Psychology and Masters of Clinical Neuropsychology at Macquarie University. Her PhD investigated the effects of chemotherapy on cognitive function and the potential for physical activity to remedy these impairments.

Dr Fardell is particularly interested in identifying and providing interventions for neurocognitive and social outcomes in survivors of paediatric cancer. She currently leads the Ready, Steady, School research program that aims to help young people affected by cancer return to school after treatment. Her other research interests include measurement in psychology and fear of cancer recurrence.  

Read more: Ready, Steady, School.


Professor Claire Wakefield

Professor Claire Wakefield is a researcher at the University of NSW in the discipline of Paediatrics, School of Women’s & Children’s Health. She also leads the Behavioural Sciences Unit in the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, one of Australia’s largest psycho-oncology research groups.

Professor Wakefield’s research interests is aiming to improving the mental health and quality of life in families affected by paediatric and adolescent cancer. She has been instrumental in leading several bi-national studies investigating cost effective interventions and novel technologies for families. She is also committed to the Professor is a registered psychologist with a first-class honours degree, a Masters degree in Public Health and a PhD in Psychology.

Her commitment to research and leadership has been recognised with multiple awards, such as the NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Award and Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow of the Year

Read more: Re-engage.


Professor Peter Gunning

Professor Peter Gunning is the Head of the School of Medical Sciences at University of New South Wales.

Professor Gunning’s research is focussed on childhood disease, in particular cancer and muscle damage. He is best known for his discovery of one of the key principles underlying the architecture of all cells and its application to childhood cancer. His research group discovered that a family of proteins known as tropomyosins are instrumental in defining the properties of the cell skeleton. This knowledge has been used to develop new drugs with the potential to treat childhood cancer and other malignancies. These new drugs greatly enhance the efficacy of the most commonly used therapeutic agents.

He has also been involved in adult stem cell research as a method to both limit the impact of chemotherapy and children with brain tumours and to enhance the rebuilding of diseases muscles using muscle stem cells.

Professor Gunning is on the Board of the NSW Cancer Institute and served as the Chair of the NSW Cancer Institute Cancer Research Advisory Committee for six years. Professor Gunning has published over 200 research papers and edited the book Tropomyosin. He was also Chair, Division of Research, at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and subsequently Deputy Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW. 

Read more: Drug discovery project.


Professor Edna Hardeman

Professor Edna Hardeman is the Head of the Cellular and Genetic Medicine Unit in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of NSW.

She received her doctorate from the Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University and then took up a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pharmacology, Stanford Medical School. She established her laboratory, the Muscle Development Unit at the Children’s Medical Research Institute in Sydney, and has built an international reputation defining mechanisms of muscle gene regulation, and generating mouse models for human skeletal muscle diseases and trialling therapies as part of an international consortium of the European Neuromuscular Centre. She also established her pre-eminence in the physiology of the actin/tropomyosin cytoskeleton using genetically modified mice. Her research underpins our understanding of the function of the cancer-associated tropomyosin in both normal and childhood cancer tissue.

In 2009 she moved to the University of New South Wales to take up a Research Chair in Anatomy and establish the Cellular and Genetic Medicine Unit. Notable achievements include: developing the human skeletal alpha-actin promoter for skeletal muscle-specific expression in animal models of human disease and for gene therapy, the identification of a novel pulsatory, stochastic mode of gene transcription that contributed a new mechanism to the field of gene regulation and the generation of mouse models for nemaline myopathy and identification of therapies.

As a member of the collaborative team that identified tropomyosins as the gatekeepers of actin filament function she established the physiological role of the cancer associated tropomyosin, Tpm3.1. She has been a member of the team which identified Tpm3.1 as druggable target for cancer therapy and was responsible for demonstrating the safety of using these drugs to treat the childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, in a mouse model. She has expanded this work to the development of additional anti-tropomyosin drugs to treat a range of human disease indications.

Professor Hardeman is also Chair in the Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Animal Welfare Committee and a member of the NHMRC Research Quality Steering Committee.

Read more: Evaluating potential side effects of anti-tropomyosins.