Multiscale simulations at the bio-nano interface

Prof Megan O'Mara's highly interdisciplinary research lies at the interface of chemistry, biology, physics and computer science. While our knowledge of structural biology, systems biology and omics data has expanded rapidly in the last few years, significant gaps remain in our understanding of how proteins, lipids and other biomolecules come together to bring about the molecular regulation of living cells. Megan uses multiscale simulations and high performance computing techniques to understand how the chemical environment of the cell influences function, and how biochemical changes resulting from inflammatory or disease processes change the cell's biophysical properties. She is particularly interested in how these changes can lead to differences in the efficacy of pharmaceuticals and the design of biocompatible molecules that will improve targeted drug delivery. 

Prof ​Megan O'Mara is a Senior Group Leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at The University of Queensland. She completed her PhD in Physical Sciences at the Australian National University in 2005 before moving to the University of Calgary, Canada, to take up a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship working on membrane protein structural dynamics. Since returning to Australia in 2009, she has held positions and fellowships at both the University of Queensland and the Australian National University. In September 2019 she accepted a two-year appointment Associate Director (Education) at ANU’s Research School of Chemistry, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. She is an Associate Editor for RSC Advances, the Vice-President of the Association of Molecular Modellers of Australasia (AMMA), and was previously the Secretary of the Australian Society for Biophysics. Megan is intensely interested in cell membrane biophysics, membrane protein function and how the membrane biochemistry influences its physical properties and modulates membrane protein function and drug uptake. 


​Prof Megan O'Mara has had industry collaborations with Henkel in partnership with QUT, and Atomwise, a company specialising in artificial intelligence for drug discovery. She has close connections with the National Computational Infrastructure.


The most challenging problems require collaborators with diverse skillsets and backgrounds, allowing each person to bring their unique perspective to solve challenging research problems. Prof O'Mara's research outputs involve extensive collaborations with 160 researchers from 10 countries, across universities, research institutions and industry sectors. Her established collaborators include Prof Robert Vandenberg (University of Sydney), A/Prof Tristan Rawling (University Technology Sydney), Dr Bart Eijkelkamp and Prof Melissa Brown (both Flinders University), Dr John Scheutz (St Jude Children's Research Hospital) and Prof Luke Connal (Australian National University).


​Prof O'Mara has attracted over $6.6M in Australian and international funding, including 5 ARC grants or fellowships (DECRA, Linkage, Discover Projects), 5 NHMRC grants (Projects), and 4 international grants and fellowships.

Key Publications

MacDermott-Opeskin, HI, V Gupta, ML O’Mara. Lipid-mediated antimicrobial resistance: a phantom menace or a new hope?. Biophys Rev 14, 145–162 (2022).

Frangos, ZJ, KA Wilson, HM Aitken, R Cantwell Chater, RJ Vandenberg, ML O’Mara. Membrane cholesterol regulates inhibition and substrate transport by the glycine transporter, GlyT2. Life Science Alliance Jan 2023, 6 (4) e202201708; DOI: 10.26508/lsa.202201708

Wilson, KA, HI MacDermott-Opeskin, E Riley, Y Lin, ML O’Mara. 2020. Understanding the link between lipid diversity and the biophysical properties of the neuronal plasma membrane. Biochemistry 59:3010
MacDemott-Opeskin, H, CA McDevitt, ML O’Mara. 2020. Comparing non-bonded metal ion models in the divalent cation binding protein PsaA. Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, 16:1913

Mostyn, SN, KA Wilson, A Schumann-Gillett, ZJ Frangos, S Shimmon, T Rawling, RM Ryan, ML O’Mara, RJ Vandenberg. 2019. Identification of an allosteric binding site on the human glycine transporter, GlyT2, for bioactive lipid analgesics. eLife 8: e47150

Brooks, AJ, W Dai, ML O’Mara, D Abankwa, Y Chhabra, RA Pelekanos, O Gardon, KA Tunny, KM Blucher, CJ Morton, MW Parker, E Sierecki, Y Gambin, K Alexandrov, IA Wilson, M Doxastakis, AE Mark, MJ Waters. A new cytokine receptor activation paradigm: activation of JAK2 by the growth hormone receptor. Science 344:1249783