Learn about the researchers in the lab and out in the field who are undertaking innovative research and making unique discoveries for the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative.
Dr Anand Gururajan obtained his degree in Pharmacy at the University of South Australia in 2006 followed by a PhD in Neuropharmacology at Monash University in 2008. His doctoral research project was focussed on investigating the antipsychotic potential of cannabidiol in preclinical models of aspects of schizophrenia. From 2011 to 2013, he gained further experience as a postdoctoral researcher at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health where he disentangled the complex interactions between genetic and environmental risk factors associated with schizophrenia and depression.
In 2015, Anand moved to University College Cork (Ireland) where he carried out a clinical research project to identify diagnostic biomarkers of depression. In the following year he was awarded the Marie-Curie Individual Actions Research fellowship by the European Research Commission to investigate the central and peripheral basis of resilience to chronic stress. In 2018, Anand was awarded the University of Sydney Research Fellowship to investigate the molecular mechanisms of action for various phytocannabinoids with potential for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. He is also an ad-hoc lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology.
Anastasia Suraev graduated with a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours in Psychology) at the University of Sydney. Following this, she completed a Masters in Psychology (Clinical Neuropsychology) at the University of Melbourne in 2015, where her thesis focused on the cognitive outcomes of people with a severe and treatment-resistant epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
In early 2016, she began working as a Clinical Research Officer at the Lambert Initiative. Her main roles involve developing next-phase clinical research proposals and in coordinating the PELICAN research study. As part of this study, Anastasia liaised with families of children with epilepsy and interviewed the parent or guardian on their experiences with using cannabis- or hemp-based products as a way to manage their child’s seizures. This study has since been completed, with the findings about to be published in a scientific journal. Anastasia is about to commence a PhD in mid-2018 examining the effects of cannabinoids in people with primary insomnia. She is also involved in community outreach where she provides assistance to people in the community on navigating the patient access schemes for medicinal cannabis.
Dr Jia Lin Luo completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons I) in 2011 from the University of Sydney. After obtaining his pharmacist registration, Jia Lin returned to the University of Sydney to undertake a PhD in medicinal chemistry with emphasis on synthetic organic chemistry. Jia Lin joined the Lambert Initiative in April 2017 and has worked on developing new methods for the isolation of specific cannabinoids from cannabinoid extracts and concentrates. He is also part of the Medicinal Chemistry team led by Dr Samuel Banister which works on the design and development of novel drugs based on promising cannabinoid leads for the treatment of epilepsy and various other conditions.
Dr Lewis Martin uses computational modeling to predict how drugs bind to protein targets in the brain. He completed a BSc (Hons) from the Australian National University and then a PhD in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. His research uses simulations of molecules to show where and how they bind to therapeutically interesting proteins, with the aim to develop new drugs that exploit these interactions. In addition to this he has developed a new statistical model to quickly predict the unknown proteins being affected by existing drugs.
Dr Lyndsey Anderson is a preclinical researcher from Wisconsin, United States. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology and Toxicology with a double major in Biology from the University of Wisconsin, followed by a PhD at Vanderbilt University, where she focused on the pharmacology of sodium channel mutations associated with human epilepsy and examined novel anticonvulsants in genetic mouse models of epilepsy.
Following her PhD, she undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.At Northwestern, Lyndsey pursued research on pharmacogenomics of drug-drug interactions and continued her in-vivo pharmacology work in an epilepsy model.
She joined the Lambert Initiative in May 2016, where she continues preclinical therapy screening of cannabinoids for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of paediatric epilepsy.
Dr Marika Heblinski graduated with a Master in Science (Molecular Neurobiochemistry) at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany, followed by a PhD in Neuropharmacology at the University of Sydney. She gained further experience in the field of ion channel and receptor function by working as a Research Associate at Macquarie University. Marika joined the Initiative in April 2017 to establish a high-throughput screening (HTS) laboratory. HTS is a powerful tool to investigate a wide range of phytocannabinoids as potential new drug targets for the treatment of epilepsy and other medical conditions.
Dr Melissa Benson graduated with a Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours in Drug, Design and Development) at the University of Queensland. Following this, she completed her PhD in Neuropharmacology also at the University of Queensland with a focus on the development of novel antiepileptic drug pathways and the role played by neuroinflammation in epilepsy disease development. She completed further postgraduate studies in Business related to drug development and intellectual property commercialisation.
Melissa then moved to NYC and undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at New York Medical College, focusing on disease mechanisms underlying West Syndrome, a catastrophic infantile epilepsy. Following her return to Australia, she worked in clinical trials management at a large private practice in eastern Sydney, focusing on day-to-day management and setup of clinical studies, primarily in the fields of HIV, hepatitis and cervical cancer.
Melissa joined the Lambert Initiative in July 2018, where she continues to contribute to ongoing preclinical epilepsy research. However, her key focus is project management of cannabinoid-based clinical trials and related projects being undertaken by the Lambert Initiative, in collaboration with specialist clinicians and researchers locally and abroad.
Dr Neda Assareh studied Biology at the University of Isfahan, Iran, followed by a Master’s degree in Physiology in North Tehran University, Iran (2006). She continued her education with a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham, UK (2010). During her doctoral study, she focused on cannabinoids in animal models of psychiatric disease such as depression and schizophrenia.
Following her move to Sydney, Australia, she gained post-doctoral experience at the School of Psychology, University of New South Wales (2012-2018), where she contributed to a variety of projects by applying interdisciplinary research techniques of molecular biology, optogenetics, chemogenetics and behavioral neuroscience. Her projects were focused on the mechanisms underlying learning and memory associated with psychiatric disease such as anxiety and depression.
Neda joined the Lambert Initiative in April 2018, where she is expanding preclinical studies on the potential therapeutic effect of various phytocannabinoids for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) via exploring their effects on fear learning and memory in animal models.
Dr Richard Kevin's research has focused on the psychopharmacological evaluation of novel cannabinoid compounds (eg synthetic cannabinoids) using both analytical chemistry and rodent models. His research has established basic dose-response relationships of new cannabinoids, identified potential long-term effects of chronic cannabinoid use, and characterised the metabolic processes for several synthetic cannabinoids.
Richard will join the PELICAN research study and exercise studies; analysing patient samples for cannabinoid content and analysing tinctures for terpenoid content. Additionally, he plans to conduct studies that will identify potentially therapeutic phytocannabinoid metabolites.