Seeing the structure of a protein at the atomic level as an undergrad set off a career in structural biology for Brett Collins. His interest in how cells work, and the techniques used to visualise the complex interaction mechanisms of the structures within, earned him his PhD in 2001. Postdoctorate work at Cambridge University steered him towards ‘membrane trafficking’, the term used to describe how proteins are moved from one part of a cell to another, or indeed between cells, via a complex system of membranes.

Now, as head of IMB’s Membrane Trafficking Group, he’s using techniques such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy to visualise protein structure at the atomic level to investigate why things sometimes go wrong with our cells’ protein transport system. Faulty proteins are known to cause the development of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and muscular dystrophy.



Researcher biography

Brett Collins is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow and head of the Molecular Trafficking Lab at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience. He was a lead investigator in the seminal structural studies of AP2, the protein adaptor molecule central to clathrin-mediated endocytosis, and has since defined the molecular basis for the function of critical proteins regulating membrane trafficking and signalling at the endosome organelle. His team is now focused on understanding how discrete molecular interactions between proteins and lipids control these processes in human cells.

Associate Professor Collins was awarded his PhD in 2001 and has published over 75 papers including in Cell, Nature, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, Developmental Cell, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, altogether cited more than 3100 times. He is the recipient of 3 prestigious fellowships, including a previous Career Development Award from the National Health and Medical Research Council and a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council, and was awarded the University of Queensland Research Excellence Award in 2008. In 2015 he was awarded the Emerging Leader Award of the ANZSCDB and in 2016 the Merck Research Medal from the ASBMB. He is currently the President of the Queensland Protein Group.

Featured projects Duration
Membrane trafficking at atomic resolution