About us

The specific focus of the Orphan Receptor Laboratory is the discovery of new drugs for receptors where the partner hormone is still to be found. These are called ‘orphan’ G protein-coupled receptors and make up the majority of all receptors in the family. The team combines in vitro drug screens and computational approaches to drug discovery with animal models of cardiovascular disease to further our understanding of new ways in which we can target cardiovascular disease, particularly high blood pressure. 

Techniques common to the laboratory: we use cell-based expression systems to investigate the effect of orphan GPCR expression on various cellular readouts. Techniques include transient and stable cell line generation; molecular biology (genotyping, qPCR, cloning, site-directed mutagenesis, virus generation); primary cell culture and manipulation; expression analysis through western blotting, immunoprecipitation and biotinylation; cellular and subcellular localisation with immunofluorescence, immunocytochemistry/Immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy; reporter gene assays in mammalian and yeast systems; bioluminescence resonance energy transfer, luciferase and homogeneous time-resolved FRET second messenger assays; compound library screens; computational modelling and in vivo models of cardiovascular disease.

Current projects in the lab are focused on understanding the molecular pharmacology of three poorly understood orphan GPCRs that have been implicated in various aspects of cardiovascular homeostasis and disease. We also work closely with Dr Angela Finch to study the molecular pharmacology of sweet taste receptors.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of Honours or PhD studies with the Orphan Receptor Laboratory, please contact Dr Nicola J Smith.


People related to this group

National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow and Laboratory Head, Orphan Receptor Laboratory Nicola Smith
National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow and Laboratory Head, Orphan Receptor Laboratory


Collaborators related to this group

Dr Irina Kufareva, Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UCSD, USA
Prof Bob Graham, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Prof Thomas Preiss, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU
Prof Nigel Turner, UNSW
Prof Geoff Head, Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute
Dr Simon Foster & Prof Walter Thomas, UQ
Dr Yan Wang, Wuhan University, China

Grants & Funding

The Orphan Receptor Laboratory is supported by a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship and NHMRC Project Grant.


Currently supervising:
Ms Margaret (Meg) Mouat, PhD student
Mr Sean Souchiart So, PhD student
Mr Brendan Wilkins, PhD student
Ms Kinjal Patel, PhD student
Mr Justin Moon, Hons student
Ms Annie Chen, co-supervised Hons student
Ms Jennifer Grant, co-supervised Hons student

Lab alumni:
Dr James Coleman, post-doc, PhD and Hons
Dr Tony Ngo, PhD
Dr Amy Nicks, PhD (Uni Leeds)
Mr Brendan Wilkins, Research Assistant
Dr Peter Keov, post-doc
Ms Margaret (Meg) Mouat, Hons
Mr Eric Cheung, Hons
Ms Rhyll Smythe, Hons
Mr Andrew Cleave, Hons
Mr Theodore Nettleton, Hons