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Personal profile


Professor Chris Greening leads the One Health Microbiology group at Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute. Following a first-class degree in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at the University of Oxford (2010), he undertook a doctorate at the University of Otago (2013) investigating the physiological roles of the hydrogenases in mycobacteria. He then gained postdoctoral and lecturing experience at the University of Otago, CSIRO, and Australian National University.

In 2016, he was appointed as a group leader in Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences and completed an environmentally-focused ARC DECRA Fellowship. In 2020, he moved to Monash’s Department of Microbiology to take up a medically-focused NHMRC EL2 Fellowship. Trained in the fields of biochemistry and microbiology, Chris also has experience in genetics, microbial ecology, and molecular evolution, and thrives working across disciplines.

He is a CI on four major projects, RISE: Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments, the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, SAEF: Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future, and the ARC Research Hub for Carbon Utilisation and Recycling. In 2020, Chris joined the Monash Centre to Impact AMR as a founding member and chair of the environmental engineering strategy group, and is currently developing and leading the Centre's AMR R&D Facility. In 2022, he award the Fenner Medal from the Australian Academy of Science.

Research interests

Chris’ research group (the One Health Microbiology laboratory) investigates the causes and consequences of bacterial persistence. Bacteria can persist in almost all environments due to their unprecedented ability to survive nutrient deprivation and resist antimicrobial treatment. To achieve this, environmental and pathogenic bacteria alike enter stress-resistant dormant states. One aim of the Greening Laboratory is to understand the metabolic processes that allow bacteria to stay energised and resist stresses in their dormant states. For example, they have shown that a wide range of bacteria switch from growing on organic sources to surviving on atmospheric trace gases such as hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In other words, they can live on air. Moreover, they have provided evidence that fermentation is a widespread mechanism of energy conservation, and revealed critical roles for cofactor F420 in mycobacterial persistence and drug resistance.

The Greening Laboratory also studies the consequences of microbial persistence across four major themes: global biodiversity, infectious disease, climate change, and public health. For example, bacteria that 'live on air' simultaneously control levels of climate-relevant atmospheric gases and enhance the resilience and productivity of soil ecosystems worldwide. A better understanding of these processes is critical to predict and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. Many key pathogens, especially in the developing world, can persist for extended periods in environmental and host reservoirs. The Greening Laboratory are targeting the processes that enable Mycobacterium tuberculosis to survive in host tissues. The Greening Laboratory are also working within transdisciplinary research teams to combat childhood diarrhoea in Asia-Pacific communities; they aim to implement unified monitoring approaches, resolve transmission pathways, and develop scalable interventions to improve environmental conditions and human health.

The Greening Lab takes an interdisciplinary approach in order to understand biological processes at all levels of organisation: from enzymatic mechanisms to ecosystem importance. The benefits of an integrative microbiology approach are reflected by their work demonstrating the ubiquity of microbial hydrogen metabolism and multifaceted importance of mycobacterial F420 metabolism. To achieve this, they employ a versatile suite of bacteriology, molecular biology, microbial ecology, protein biochemistry, structural biology, systems biology, genomics, and biogeochemical approaches. They synergise the diverse expertise within the team and also collaborate with world experts in areas where they are non-experts. They are also chief investigators on three major applied programs that tackle key challenges in human health and sustainability. In each of these programs, we work with different researchers (e.g. clinicians, engineers, ecologists, social scientists) and stakeholders (e.g. communities, industry, government, hospitals) to facilitate translation of fundamental research into applied practice. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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