Microbiologist and molecular and cellular biologist, specialising in antibody discovery, biochemistry, protein quality control, glycobiology, and mass spectrometry proteomics

Lucia graduated from Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto, Argentina. She then obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her PhD in Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology at the University of Minnesota, USA. For herdissertation she studied mechanisms of phenotypic variation in the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. 

She did post-doctoral work in the laboratories of Dr. Jeffrey Brodsky (University of Pittsburgh, USA), Dr. Julio Caramelo (Fundacion Instituto Leloir, Argentina), Dr. Benjamin L. Schulz (SCMB, UQ), and the ARC Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation (AIBN, UQ). She has received Fellowships from the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, CONICET-Argentina, Endeavour-Australia, and The University of Queensland.

Research Area

Lucia works closely with a number of other researchers. Lucia and her research group are interested in the understanding of basic molecular mechanisms in biology, as well as how to use this knowledge for biotechnological applications. The following are their three main research topics:

Antibody discovery and development

This is their most applied line of research. For this, the group are interested in identifying antibodies that can bind a range of proteins with therapeutical and/or diagnostic potential. They also develop improved tools for antibody discovery. They collaborate with the National Biologics Facility and with A/Prof Keith Chappell, as well as the Australian Red Cross, and other industry partners.

The secretory pathway and its biotechnological applications

For this, the aim is to better understand the cellular processes involved in the production and secretion of proteins from the cells. The secretory pathway serves the critical function of producing the proteins that will facilitate the interaction with the environment. Mutations in this pathway or in the proteins that go through this pathway are intimately associated with diseases, including cystic fibrosis and dystonia, among others. Tailoring the function of this pathway is also a major goal of biotechnological industries producing monoclonal antibodies and other biologics, enzymes, etc. They use the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Baker's yeast) and mammalian cells to study mechanisms of protein glycosylation, protein quality control, and protein degradation in the cell, with the aim to discover and also modify the pathway to suit specific needs.

Microevolution and fungal pathogenesis

The group are interested in understanding how cells acquire new traits within a short period of time - a process called microevolution - and how microevolution impacts pathogenesis. To do this they are investigating the fungal pathogen Candida albicans, one of the leading causes of death due to bloodstream infections. C. albicans is a normal part of our flora, but it can become pathogenic, with devastating consequences. They are using C. albicans mutants with increased microevolution frequency to dissect the molecular mechanisms that allow this pathogen to become fatally infectious.

Lucia and her group are currently recruiting inquisitive, hard-working, and team-oriented Honours, Master, or PhD students to join the laboratory. Contact them for more information.