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Neil O Brien Simpson

Neil O Brien Simpson

Associate Professor,
The University of Melbourne,


Neil O’Brien-Simpson has an interdisciplinary background, combining organic and peptide chemistry with microbiology and immunology to develop novel vaccines and therapeutics and investigating the immune response to pathogens. Thus his field of research is in chemical biology/immunology and host/pathogen (bacteria/fungi) mucosal interaction. He was originally trained in biological sciences and management at Edinburgh Napier University (Edinburgh, Scotland) and worked at I.C.I Chemicals and Polymers Division (Grangemouth and Runcorn) as a research organic chemist. In 1993 he was awarded an Overseas postgraduate research scholarship and a CRC for vaccine technology scholarship to study for his Ph.D at The University of Melbourne, Department of Microbiology and Immunology. During his Ph.D he was trained in peptide chemistry and immunology and developed in his thesis a method of producing a multi-valent peptide vaccine, which resulted in several publications and a patent. After being awarded his Ph.D he went to the Melbourne Dental School, The University of Melbourne, to do postdoctoral research with Eric Reynolds on the development of a vaccine against the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis a causative agent of periodontitis. At the Melbourne Dental School A/Prof O’Brien-Simpson has established a peptide/organic chemistry laboratory and a microbial-immunology laboratory to conduct research into AMPs, vaccines and bacterial immunity. He was part of a team in 2003 and 2009 that was awarded a Co-operative Research Centre grant for establishing the CRC for Oral Health Science and Oral Health CRC, respectively served as a Program Leader (2003-2009) and currently as a Project Manager for vaccine design and therapeutic development. For the past 3 years (2011-present) he has been a member of the Australian Dental Research Foundation (ADRF) research awards committee that awards grants and scholarships pertaining to oral and dental research. A/Prof O’Brien-Simpson has published over 50 peer reviewed journal articles and is an inventor on 11 patents, 6 of which have been licensed. Further his research into vaccine design and periodontitis has resulted in Neil being awarded: the Colgate Prize for Dental Research (1999), The IADR Hatton Award (2000) and the Oral Biology Award (2003). In 2003 he was awarded a CR Roper Fellowship and in 2004 he became program co-leader for the Novel Diagnostics, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals Research Program in the newly formed Co-operative Research Centre for Oral Health Science.

Research Interest

He is currently engaged in several research programs, notably in Design, development and delivery of sub-unit vaccines, Understanding the mucosal immune response to bacteria. How microbes and their products e.g. outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) interact with mammalian cells. Synthesis of antimicrobial peptides to combat microbial infection and targeting antibiotic resistant bacteria. Nanomaterial and particles for vaccine and drug delivery.