Professor Dee Carter
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Professor Dee Carter

Professor
School of Life and Environmental Sciences
Professor Dee Carter

Dee Carter graduated from the University of Otago, New Zealand, with a Bachelor of Science (Hons I) and undertook her PhD at Imperial College, London, where she worked on the plant pathogen Phytophtohora infestans, graduating in 1992. She then did an IMSERM postdoctoral fellowship in the Faculte de Medicine, Montpellier, France, and a NIHAID fellowship at Roche Molecular Systems, Alameda, California and the University of Berkeley, under the combined mentorship of Dr Thomas White and Professsor John Taylor. She has been at the University of Sydney since 1995.

The Carter lab aims to take a holistic view of eukaryotic microorganisms, in particular disease-causing pathogens, with the aim of finding new ways to inhibit them and treat infections. These organims are much more closely related to humans than bacteria or viruses, making it difficult to devise treatments that don't also damage the host. Our work centres on understanding pathogen diversity using population and evolutionary genetic analysis, and on understanding cellular responses to toxins and stresses using transcriptomic and proteomic approaches. The organisms of choice are the yeast pathogens Cryptococcus neoformans, Cryptococcus gattii, Candida albicans and Candida glabrata. These organisms are commonly encountered in the environment or living on our bodies, but cause devastating illnesses, particularly in immunocompromised hosts, that are notoriously difficult to treat.

As developing new drugs is very difficult, we take the approach of enhancing existing antifungal agents with drug synergents. Natural products can be very useful in this approach, as they are often non-toxic and work via multiple mechanisms. While they may not be sufficiently potent on their own to kill pathogens, they can be combined with more traditional antimicrobials to great effect. In addition, there are approved drugs on the market that can be used in new ways in drug combinations. The modern tools of systems biology and 'omics allow us to understand how agents work on their own and in combination to a far greater level of detail than has ever been possible. We are working with bioinfomaticians and systems biology colleagues to understand the cellular pathways and processes that lead to enhanced cell death, with the aim of using these as targets in new therapies.

Our other work centres on Chromera velia, a novel photosynthetic alga that was discovered in our laboratory in 2008. Chromera holds a unique position as an intermediate between symbiotic algae that live inside the cells of corals and apicomplexan parasites including the agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis. Apicomplexans contain a relic non-photosynthetic chloroplast indicating an alga-like past; Chromera allows us to investigate how this algal ancestor may have looked and acted. We are exploring the role of Chromera in the environment, its interaction with marine organisms, particularly corals, and are also working with Medicines for Malaria Ventures to see if it can be used to develop new anti-malarial drugs.

Dee Carter teaches undergraduate mycology, parasitiology and molecular genetics. More that 50 honours students and 23 PhD students have completed their theses in her laboratory. Her lab currently consists of 3 PhD students and 1 honours student.

Howard Hughes International Scholar (2000-2005)

Merck Sharpe and Dohme Award for outstanding contributions to Mycology (2010)

Velux Fellowship, ETH, Zürich, Switzerland (2011-2)

Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (since 2016)

Infection and Immunological Conditions, Microbiology, Molecular biology and biotechnology, Human health
Project titleResearch student
Investigating the potential of honey as a prebiotic to improve the gut microbiome.Kathleen SCHELL

Publications

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Selected Grants

2021

  • A peptide-based adjuvant therapy to reduce the toxicity of Amphotericin B, Carter D, Deplazes E, Payne R, Gilead Sciences Ptd Ltd/Research Support
  • Biofilm responses to cold atmospheric plasma, Mai-Prochnow A, Carter D, Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP)

2020

  • Future-Proofing the NSW Apiary Industry and Keeping Beekeepers in Jobs, Carter D, Remnant E, Shanahan E, Department of Regional NSW/Bushfire Industry Recovery Package Sector Development Grants