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Personal profile


Francesca completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and her PhD at the University of Cambridge in the lab of Professor George Salmond. From 2016-2018 she was a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge and Wellcome Sanger Institute, and in 2019 she relocated to Australia to work at Macquarie University with Professor Ian Paulsen. Her work bridges classical molecular microbiology, biochemistry and genomics approaches to build our understanding of how bacterial pathogens cause disease, with a particular focus on regulation of virulence factors. Francesca joined Monash University in November 2020 as an ARC DECRA fellow. In 2021, Francesca was invited to join the Monash Centre to Impact AMRs working group on OneHealth. She now serves on the working group to help drive OneHealth policy initiatives.

Research interests

Francesca and her team use a combination of innovative functional genomics and molecular approaches to understand how Gram-negative bacteria control their behaviour, with a view to building fundamental knowledge of pathogenesis and AMR and improving our ability to predict phenotype from genotype.

  • Understanding the regulatory networks controlling virulence and antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative pathogens
  • Defining strain-specific modes of virulence control
  • Development of new functional genomics approaches
  • Molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial biocides

Supervision interests

Uncovering the regulatory networks for Klebsiella pneumoniae iron acquisition

Iron is essential for bacterial growth, but it is severely limited in most environments. Bacteria have evolved clever systems to acquire this nutrient, including siderophores – small, high iron-affinity molecules which are secreted and then taken up in iron-bound form by surrounding bacteria. ¬¬¬The bacterial pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae is a dangerous public health threat that produces up to four distinct siderophores. These molecules collectively determine infection routes and enable hypervirulence. Because they are essential for pathogenesis, they are also attractive therapeutic targets. Understanding how these factors are controlled could help reveal their full range of biological functions and open the way to development of new virulence-subverting drugs.

Functional genomics | Novel regulators | Bioinformatics | Molecular Microbiology 


Exploring the activity of novel virulence regulators in the hospital pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii


Polysaccharide capsule is a critical virulence factor in many bacteria, including the priority drug-resistant pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii. The capsule is the first part of the bacterium “seen” by the host and is therefore a key mediator of immune interactions, and a potential target for novel drugs. Despite its importance for infection, very little is known about how production of capsule is coordinated and controlled in this species.

capsule production | novel capsule regulators | RNA sequencing | Bioinformatics

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Biochemistry, PhD, Assembly, specificity and function of bacterial Type III protein-RNA toxin-antitoxin systems, University of Cambridge

Biotechnology, BAppSc (hons), University of Otago

Research area keywords

  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Acinetobacter baumannii
  • biocide
  • functional genomics
  • Tn-Seq