Researchers in lab looking through microscopesOver the past 50 years there has been a revolution in our understanding of the molecular basis of health and disease in humans, animals and plants. This knowledge has driven development of technologies that can interrogate the individual molecular profiles of organisms. In combination with traditional epidemiological methods there are now opportunities for diagnosis and treatment that will transform health care and agricultural practices.

The research undertaken by members of this RFA ranges from understanding the molecular basis of disease through to translational research, with the overarching aim of getting basic research findings into the clinic and the field. Read our downloadable summary here.

Director's welcome

RFA Understanding Disease (UD) promotes cross disciplinary research into understanding many aspects of human, animal and plant disease. We focus on supporting projects from early stage seeding to connecting researchers with industry and external partners. Our aim is to also develop Early Career Researchers by providing networking opportunities and access to funds to develop research projects.

As the Director of RFA-UD, I welcome you to discover highlights of our activities through the pages on this website, seeing the projects we have funded, the researchers involved and our aims and objectives for the future. We have an extensive list of external partners with whom we work and welcome opportunities to connect researchers with new partnerships. Whether a new or existing researcher at La Trobe University, you are invited to join us and participate in our activities which will be promoted widely through this website.

Andrew Hill professional headshotAndrew Hill

Director, RFA-UD

Vision and Goals

Our aim is to understand the processes underlying disease at the molecular, cellular, whole organism and population levels. To do this, our research teams integrate varied disciplines to approach the same over-all problem at different levels. Ultimately this should drive better disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment strategies.

Advisory Committee

Our Advisory Board of external representatives from industry, the private sector, government and non-government organisations, will guide us and champion the research themes. Given the nature of our research, we are particularly keen to engage with philanthropic organisations.

Our external members:

 Professor Ashley Dunn, FAA (Chair)Science consultant, Honorary of the Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne
Dr Julian ClarkHead of Business Development, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Professor Elizabeth HartlandHead of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
Professor David VauxDeputy Director and Joint Division Head of Cell Signalling and Cell Death, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Associate Professor Jan TennentCEO, Biomedical Research Victoria
Professor Katie AllenTheme Director of Population Health and Group Leader of Gastro and Food Allergy, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Our internal members:

Professor Andy HillRFA Understanding Disease Director, Director of La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science
Professor Marilyn Anderson, AOLab Head & CSO of Hexima Ltd
Professor Stephen KentHead of School of Psychological Science
Professor Chris PakesDean of Graduate Studies
Professor Robert PikePro Vice Chancellor (SHE)

Executive Committee

Professor Andy Hill (Director) Director of La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science
Professor Cheryl Dissanayake (Deputy Director) School of Psychology and Public Health, Director of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre
 Dr Lindus Conlan RFA Development Manager
Professor Matthias Ernst Head of School of Cancer Medicine and Scientific Director of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute
Associate Professor Ashley FranksActing Academic Coordinator (Research), Representing Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) SHE
Dr Mark Hulett Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, Research Director of La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science
Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos Head of Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Associate Dean International SHE
Professor Sue Martin Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) ASSC
Professor Brian Smith Head of School of Molecular Sciences


Our Research membership is open to all researchers from La Trobe University and is drawn from across many areas of the University, including both Colleges, several campuses and research groups such as: Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute.

Our Distribution membership is open to Post-grad students, La Trobe University staff with interest in the RFA and non-active researchers. All staff have access to a research intranet page for more information about this RFA and access to the RFA UD Capability document.

If you belong to La Trobe University and would like to join the list of our members, please email your interest.

La Trobe Staff only: Find out more about Understanding Disease [restricted access].