Dr Zaklina Kovacevic

Dr Zaklina Kovacevic

Senior Lecturer

Bachelor of Medical Sciences (Honours Class 1), University of Sydney - 2006

PhD (Medicine), University of Sydney - 2011

Medicine & Health
School of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Kovacevic completed her PhD in 2011 at the University of Sydney, where she also undertook her post-doctoral studies, being supported by joint NHMRC and CINSW Early Career and Career Development Fellowships. Her PhD studies focused on developing a new class of metal-binding thiosemicarbazones as anti-cancer agents and elucidating their molecular mechanisms in numerous cancer types including pancreatic, prostate and breast cancers. This work facilitated the entry of lead agent, DpC, into Australian multi-centre clinical trials in 2016. She also made significant contributions to understanding the function of the iron-regulated metastasis suppressor N-myc down-stream regulated gene 1 (NDRG1), identifying the important role of this protein in cancer progression, development of resistance to chemotherapies and cross-talk with the tumour microenvironment. 

In 2020 Dr. Kovacevic established her independent research group at the University of Sydney, and in 2023 she relocated to UNSW where she now heads to Tumour Microenvironment group within the School of Biomedical Sciences. Her research is focused on understanding the cross-talk between cancer cells and the tumour microenvironment, with a particular interest in pancreatic cancer. She has published 81 research outputs (>5500 citations) and attracted >$8.5 million in research grants/fellowships ($3 million as lead investigator). Her research achievements were recognized by the 2016 Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow of the Year and the 2016 Sydney Medical School Award for Excellence for Outstanding Early Career Researcher. 

Over her career, Dr. Kovacevic has co-supervised and mentored 30 postgraduate students (PhD/Masters/Honours) to successful completion, including 6 as primary supervisor. Her team currently consists of 3 PhD and 1 Honours students. Dr. Kovacevic is also actively involved in peer review, being an Editorial Board Member for 7 international journals (i.e. Biochem. J, BBA Gen Subjects, Pharmacol. Res, etc.) and is regularly involved in grant assessment for national and international funding bodies (i.e. NHMRC, National Breast Cancer Foundation). As a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physiology, Dr. Kovacevic is also integrally involved in teaching into undergraduate Medicine and Physiology units at UNSW.

Level 4E Wallace Wurth Building C27 University of NSW Team website: http://unsw.to/tme-lab

Kovacevic Z., Beheshti E.H. Unlocking the potential of cancer associated fibroblasts to defeat pancreatic cancer. NHMRC Ideas Grant (2023-2025) $637,000

Kovacevic Z., Beheshti E.H. Sahni, S. and Timpson P. Identifying metabolic changes in pancreatic fibroblasts during development of pancreatic cancer to facilitate early detection. PanKind Innovator Grant 2023 $99,077


2017      Recipient of a 2016 Sydney Medical School Award for Excellence for Outstanding Early Career Researcher ($1500).

2016      Awarded the NSW Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow of the Year by the Cancer Institute of NSW ($20,000).

To find out more about my team's research activities and our current projects, you can visit our website.

My Research Supervision

Mr. Jiawei Chang (Kevin) – PhD student

Mr. Shafi Alenizi – PhD student

Miss. Yujie Li – PhD student

Mr. Mekonnen Sisay – PhD student

Miss. Balquees Kanwal – visiting PhD student