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Personal profile

Biography

Ana Traven obtained her PhD in 2002 from the University of Zagreb Croatia. As a postdoctoral fellow, she trained at the St. Vincent’s Institute in Melbourne (supported by the NHMRC Peter Doherty training fellowship), and in the Department of Microbiology at Columbia University in New York City (supported by a Short-Term Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Human Frontier Science Program Organisation). In 2009 Ana started her own research group at Monash University, where she is currently an Associate Professor and Head of the Laboratory for fungal pathogenesis.

 

As a PhD student and postdoctoral fellow, Ana used the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system to understand gene regulation. More recently, her research moved into the field of human fungal pathogens, focusing on the yeast Candida albicans. Potentially deadly infections with Candida threaten people in intensive care units and those suffering from cancer, with mortality that can reach an astonishing 40%. The Traven lab is studying how Candida mounts counter-attacks against host immune defences, as well as building molecular knowledge of the fundamental cellular mechanisms that drive fungal virulence and susceptibility to antifungal treatments. In translation-oriented work, Ana’s lab has engaged with engineers and industry partners to characterise novel antimicrobial compounds that have therapeutic potential. The work in the Traven lab has been supported by the NHMRC and ARC.

Research interests

Microbial pathogens are responsible for millions of deaths globally, with raising concerns over resistance to available therapies (so-called AMR or antimicrobial drug resistance), and predictions suggesting that by 2050 deaths from infections might become more prevalent that deaths from cancer. In addition to bacteria and bacterial “superbugs”, fungal pathogens are another important class of microbes which have become prevalent killers, particularly of immunocompromised and severely ill people. Estimates suggest that at least 1.5 million people die from fungal infections every year. Cancer, HIV, organ transplants and intensive care unit hospitalisation are predisposing factors for life-threatening fungal infections. Compared to bacteria, fungal pathogens are less understood, particularly in relation to their interactions with host immunity and the host-pathogen interplay that determines the outcome of infection. Moreover, fungi are eukaryotes, meaning that their cellular structures and mechanisms of growth, metabolism and division are very similar to human cells. This greatly complicates efforts to develop efficient and safe antifungal therapies that discriminately act on fungal, but not human cells. In fact, only a handful of antifungal drugs are available to treat fungal infections, and issues with them include resistance of the pathogens to therapy, and toxicity to the patient.

 

The Traven lab focuses on Candida albicans, a common human pathogen that can cause several types of infections that range in seriousness, including oral candidiasis, but also disseminated disease that is highly deadly. The lab is working towards understanding the interactions of Candida with innate immune cells (the first line of defence against fungal overgrowth). For this we use live cell imaging of immune cell-pathogen interactions, mouse infection models and a range of molecular and cell biology approaches. Another major aspect of our work is to define the molecular mechanisms by which Candida albicans is able to transition between developmental phases that are connected to virulence (yeast and hyphal cells), and how it can resist stressors that it encounters during infections (such as antifungal drugs or immune cell attack). Our interests lie in the areas of immunometabolism (i.e. metabolic changes in immune cells and pathogens that control their interactions), and gene expression control (i.e. gene regulatory networks that control the behaviour of Candida in response to the environment).

 

Over the last 5 years, our work has been funded by the NHMRC and ARC. Recent papers from the lab were published in Cell Metabolism, PLoS Genetics, mBio, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and PNAS.

Keywords

  • Infection
  • Innate immunity
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • antimicrobial drug resistance

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Projects 2011 2021

Research Output 2001 2019

Mdivi-1 and mitochondrial fission: recent insights from fungal pathogens

Koch, B. & Traven, A., 19 Feb 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : Current Genetics. 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

A Metabolic Checkpoint for the Yeast-to-Hyphae Developmental Switch Regulated by Endogenous Nitric Oxide Signaling

Koch, B., Barugahare, A. A., Lo, T. L., Huang, C., Schittenhelm, R. B., Powell, D. R., Beilharz, T. H. & Traven, A., 20 Nov 2018, In : Cell Reports. 25, 8, p. 2244-2258 15 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
File

Glucose Homeostasis Is Important for Immune Cell Viability during Candida Challenge and Host Survival of Systemic Fungal Infection

Tucey, T. M., Verma, J., Harrison, P. F., Snelgrove, S. L., Lo, T. L., Scherer, A. K., Barugahare, A. A., Powell, D. R., Wheeler, R. T., Hickey, M. J., Beilharz, T. H., Naderer, T. & Traven, A., 1 May 2018, In : Cell Metabolism. 27, 5, p. 988-1006.e7 27 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

The antifungal plant defensin HsAFP1 is a phosphatidic acid-interacting peptide inducing membrane permeabilization

Cools, T. L., Vriens, K., Struyfs, C., Verbandt, S., Ramada, M. H. S., Brand, G. D., Bloch, C., Koch, B., Traven, A., Drijfhout, J. W., Demuyser, L., Kucharíková, S., Van Dijck, P., Spasic, D., Lammertyn, J., Cammue, B. P. A. & Thevissen, K., 21 Nov 2017, In : Frontiers in Microbiology. 8, NOV, 2295.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
File

The mitochondrial GTPase Gem1 contributes to the cell wall stress response and invasive growth of Candida albicans

Koch, B., Tucey, T. M., Lo, T. L., Novakovic, S., Boag, P. & Traven, A., 20 Dec 2017, In : Frontiers in Microbiology. 8, DEC, 17 p., 2555.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
File

Prizes

Georgina Sweet Awards for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science

Ana Traven (Recipient), 2018

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Activities 2012 2019

Immunology of Fungal InfectionsGordon Research Conference

Ana Traven (Invited speaker)
13 Jan 201918 Jan 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference

Slaying the Superbugs

Ana Traven (Contributor)
2018

Activity: Community Talks, Presentations, Exhibitions and EventsPublic lecture/debate/seminar

Reviewer

Ana Traven (Reviewer)
20172018

Activity: External Academic EngagementGrant review responsibilities

Gender Equity Committee for the Sub-faculty of Biomedical and Psychological Science (FBPS)

Ana Traven (Member)
20172018

Activity: External Academic EngagementPeer review panel or committee

Reviewer

Ana Traven (Reviewer)
20172018

Activity: External Academic EngagementGrant review responsibilities

Press / Media

Slaying the Superbugs

Ana Traven

12/09/18

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

Monash study exposes key tactic used by deadly fungus

Thomas Naderer & Ana Traven

1/05/187/05/18

2 media contributions

Press/Media: Research

Study exposes key tactic used by deadly fungus

Thomas Naderer & Ana Traven

1/05/18

1 item of media coverage, 1 media contribution

Press/Media: Research

Melbourne Boffins fight fatal Fungus

Ana Traven & Traude Beilharz

5/11/15

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Research