Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Professor Greg Goodall

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
28 Jan 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:
All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$29,863 p.a.

About This Project 

Discover the oncogenic drivers of neuroblastoma

Seeking to make a difference in the field of molecular biology and interested in developing novel cancer therapies? The University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a ground-breaking project-based PhD in our Centre for Cancer Biology.

Neuroblastoma is the leading cause of cancer-related death in children under the age of five, due to poor prognostic classification of tumours and a lack of targeted treatments. Current treatments rely mainly on damaging radiation and toxic chemotherapy, with poor cure rates and long-term risk of treatment-induced morbidity. 

Neuroblastoma is primarily due to a failure of cellular differentiation, with neuroblasts in the embryo failing to exit their proliferate phase. By modelling the disease in vitro, using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), we will be able to monitor the expression of not only protein coding genes, but also non-coding RNAs, including microRNAs and lncRNAs, as well as alternative splice isoforms of protein coding mRNAs. 

These classes of molecule are well known to be major controllers of cellular differentiation and cancers, but their roles in neuroblast differentiation and neuroblastoma remain largely unidentified.

We have established a system using iPSCs to model the differentiation pathway that gives rise to neuroblasts and sympathetic neurons and are applying both long and short read RNA sequencing to identify candidate drivers of the differentiation process, which could be tumour suppressors of neuroblastoma. 

First, this project aims to use CRISPR technology to manipulate levels of the candidate drivers during the iPSC differentiation to test their requirement for differentiation into mature neurons. Second, we will, where appropriate, use the iPSC differentiation system and other in vitro cell systems to understand the molecular mechanisms by which the novel differentiation regulators function. Third, we will use CRISPR technology to engineer iPSC cells with known and/or novel oncogenes and/or gene deletions to create neuroblastoma cells with a fully known constellation of oncogenic drivers, which can then be used to test potential therapies for neuroblastoma.

You will join the Gene Regulation Section of the Centre for Cancer Biology under the direct supervision of the Section head, Prof Greg Goodall, FAA, FAHMS. With over 200 researchers, including several PhD and honours students, the Centre is a hub for cancer research within South Australia, housing multiple internationally recognised research groups. 

It is a collegial and friendly working environment, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and staffed by passionate researchers whose skills range from cell biology through to the bioinformatic analysis of high throughput genomic sequencing. 

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will undertake laboratory-based research associated with this project under the guidance of a supervisory team of experienced researchers.

Upon completion, you will be equipped with a broad set of skills in molecular and cell biology, and potentially in bioinformatic analysis. This broad set of skills will prepare you to embark on a successful postgraduate career in academia or industry.

We will encourage and support you to travel to several scientific conferences over the course of the project. Doing so will give you valuable presentation experience and help you to establish a strong professional network. 

Where you’ll be based

You’ll be based at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) on UniSA’s City West campus. CCB is a medical research institute which carries out a world-class program of innovative research, making breakthrough discoveries in the fundamental causes of cancer, and translating these discoveries into new ways to prevent and treat this group of diseases.

The CCB is an alliance between SA Pathology and the University of South Australia and boasts the largest concentration of cancer research in South Australia, currently hosting 22 full-time research group leaders and their teams.

CCB laboratories carry out research in leukaemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, brain cancer and colon cancer, focussing in the specialised areas of gene regulation, molecular signalling, translational oncology and cancer genomics. In addition to these laboratories, our ACRF cancer Genomics Facility is providing access to state-of-the-art genomics research equipment, computing technology and bioinformatics expertise to Adelaide BioMed Precinct and the wider research community.

Translation of new discoveries into clinical practice is strengthened by the co-localisation of the laboratories within a single Institute, as well as its proximity and close collaboration with the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and SAHMRI.

The CCB also has alliances with leading pharmaceutical companies to rapidly exploit new discoveries. The Institute aims to be a hub of internationally recognized cancer research excellence, achieving tangible outcomes for cancer patients.

The CCB is a member of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI).

Supervisory Team
Financial Support

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $29,863 per annum is available to eligible applicants. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included. For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information for domestic students or international students.

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. 

All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City West campus in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Saturday, 28 January, 2023

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

IMPORTANT: This site is optimised for the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome. Note that earlier versions of any browsers mentioned are supported, but likely to demonstrate slower response times.

By choosing to continue, you agree to the privacy policy. Show Privacy Policy