Professor Peter Gunning

Professor Peter Gunning

BSc (Hons) Monash 1974.

PhD Monash 1977.

Medicine & Health
School of Biomedical Sciences

Professor Gunning completed his PhD at Monash University on gene expression in the nervous system and then spent 9 years at Stanford University working first on neuronal differentiation and then on the regulation of muscle gene expression. The latter project involved the cloning of the human contractile proteins which facilitated our cloning of the genes encoding the structural proteins of the skeleton of human cells.

Since returning to Australia his research group has used these genes to study the assembly of the architecture of cells and tissues. They have discovered that a family of proteins called tropomyosins are used to specify the spatial and temporal properties of the cell skeleton. This has provided an entirely new model to account for the range of architectural structures found in cells and allows them to dissect these different structures using genetically modified mice and cells. Mouse models have allowed them to link specific types of structures with specific physiological processes such as cell/tissue growth, glucose metabolism, muscle contraction and neuronal morphogenesis. These models have also revealed the role of cell architecture in diseases as diverse as cancer and obesity. This knowledge has been used to develop new drugs with the potential to treat childhood cancer and other malignancies.

Professor Gunning has published over 200 research papers and edited the book "Tropomyosin". He was on the Board of the NSW Cancer Institute for 10 years and served as the Chair of the NSW Cancer Institute Cancer Research Advisory Committee for 6 years.

Professor Gunning was the inaugural Chair of the Division of Research at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, and the Founding Chair of Bio-Link Pty Ltd.

At UNSW he has served as Presiding Member of the Animal Ethics Committee (2009-2013), Faculty of Medicine Deputy Dean (Research) (2013-2015) and Head School of Medical Sciences (2015-2018).

His research is focused on the application of mechanobiology to understand the principles of cell architecture and its application to human disease. He has developed new classes of drugs that inhibit the function of specialised filaments within the actin cytoskeleton that contribute to childhood and adult cancer and the over production of platelets in the blood. His research combines basic cell biology with clinical collaborations to translate his discoveries to improve human health. 

Room 229, Wallace Wurth Building, UNSW

2020 President's Medal, Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology.

We are developing mechanobiology drugs that target the structure of cells and tissues. This is allowing us to understand how mechanical forces dictate the properties of biological materials and apply this knowledge to real world health problems in humans. We are recognised as leaders in this field by the international research community.