Contact Details

Position: 
NHMRC RD Wright Fellow & Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Room: 
516
Mail: 
School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, BNE, QUEENSLAND 4072
Telephone: 
+61 3365 2924
Facsimile: 
+61 3365 1766
Biography: 
A/Prof Woodruff is an NHMRC RD Wright Fellow (CDF Level 2) conducting research into the innate immune system in the brain, in both health and disease, spanning embryonic neurodevelopment to adult neurodegeneration.
 
A/Prof Woodruff’s specific expertise revolves around the Complement System, and the role its major activation fragments, C3a and C5a, play in neurobiology. A focus of his work has been the chronic neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neuron disease), Parkinson's disease, and Huntington’s disease, as well as maintaining an active interest in Alzheimer's diseaseneurotrauma, and ischemia-reperfusion injuries. Using a series of potent and orally active C5a receptor antagonists developed at The University of Queensland, A/Prof Woodruff has shown the therapeutic potential of targeting complement-mediated neuroinflammation to reduce neuronal cell death in these conditions.
 
In addition to studying complement, his emerging research is also examining the role of new innate immune therapeutic targets, such as the NLRP3 inflammasome, in neurodegenerative disease.
Research Interests: 

Therapeutic Modulation of Inflammation in Neurodegenerative Disease

The complement factors C3a and C5a are a potent inflammatory and immunomodulatory molecules. Inflammation is increasingly implicated in the progression of neurodegenerative disease. Our laboratory is investigating the effects of C3a and C5a in several models of neurodegenerative disease, including Motor Neuron disease (ALS), Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease, by using a specific C3a and C5a receptor therapeutics, and novel transgenic mice and tools developed by our group. We are also investigating novel modulators of the innate immune system as potential new targets to combat neuroinflammation in these diseases.


Complement anaphylatoxin agonists and antagonists as pharmacological modulators of immunopathology

We are collaborating with local and international groups to develop and test novel drugs which target the inflammatory process induced by complement system activation. We are also working closely with clinicians at the Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital, Brisbane, who focus on neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases, to help translate our knowledge into the clinic, for the benefit of patients.


Role of the innate immune complement system in the development of the brain

We have found that components of the innate immune system are essential for aspects of neural development. Specific inhibition of the complement system impairs neurogenesis and brain development, and when combined with folate deficiency leads to drastic neural tube defects in mice. We are exploring the mechanisms by which this system helps to develop the brain, which will provide clues to what happens when things go wrong - and potential ways to combat this.

Funded Projects: 

Active Grants as Principal Investigator (CIA):

Michael J. Fox Foundation: Target Validation grant (2015-2016). Pharmacological targeting of the NLRP3 inflammasome in pre-clinical models of Parkinson's disease using potent orally active inhibitors.

NHMRC Project Grant (2015-2019). Determining the contribution of peripheral immune complement signalling in the progression of motor neuron disease.

NHMRC Project grant (2015-2017). Complement activation as a therapeutic target and clinical biomarker for Parkinson's disease.

Teaching Interests: 

Coordination of 3rd year Biomedical courses, as well as teaching Pharmacology into several other Science and Medical courses.

Significant Professional Activities and Awards: 
The International Complement Society Young Investigator Award (2014)
ASMR Queensland Health and Medical Senior Researcher Award (2013)
QLD Young Tall Poppy Science Award (2012)
The Edgeworth David Medal (2011)
UQ Early Career Researcher Award (2009)
Denis Wade Johnson and Johnson New Investigator Award (2008)
QLD Premiers Award for Health and Medical Research (2008)

PhD and Honours Projects

Students interested in undertaking Honours or research higher degrees are encouraged to contact A/Prof Woodruff. The following topics are broadly studied in his group:

1. Therapeutic potential of targeting innate immune molecules in neurodegenerative disease.
2. Discovery and development of novel therapeutics targeting inflammatory diseases.

 

Selected Publications: 
Associations: 
International Complement Society (Secretary)
Australian Neuroscience Society
The Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists
The Australian Society for Medical Research
The Australian Huntington's Disease Association
Grants: 

Past Grants as Principal Investigator (CIA):

Motor Neuron Disease Research Institute of Australia: Grant in Aid (2015). Therapeutic targeting of the NLRP3 inflammasome using a potent and orally active inhibitor in experimental motor neuron disease.

ARC Future Fellowship: (2012 - 2016). Investigating the role of the innate immune system in the abnormal development of the central nervous system.

Motor Neuron Disease Research Institute of Australia: Grant in Aid (2014). Innate immune complement signalling in the peripheral immune cells during the progression of motor neuron disease
 
National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia: Project Grant (2012 - 2014). Contribution of Complement C5a to Neuronal Cell Death during Ischemic Stroke
 
National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia: Project Grant (2011 - 2013). Therapeutic Targeting of Complement C5a Receptors in Huntington’s Disease
 
Donation: Australian Huntington’s Disease Association; PhD Scholarship (2009-2013)
 
UQ Collaborative Industry and Engagement Fund (2011 - 2013). Therapeutic modulation of the innate immune complement system as a new and adjunct therapy to treat a wide variety of cancers
 
Fellowship: National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia: Career Development Award (2008 - 2012). The Role of the Complement System in Neurodegeneration and the Therapeutic Potential of Complement Inhibition
 
Qualifications and Awards: 
PhD in Pharmacology, University of Queensland (2000-2003)
NHMRC Biomedical Career Development Award (Level 1: 2008-2012)
ARC Future Fellowship (2012-2016)
NHMRC Biomedical Career Development Award (Level 2: 2016-2020)