Dr Rowena Martin

Lab leader and ARC Future Fellow (level 2)
College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Infectious Agents 060502
  • Receptors And Membrane Biology 060110
  • Medical Parasitology 110803
  • Cell Physiology 111601
  • Bioinformatics 060102

Research interests

We work on the identification, heterologous expression, and characterisation of membrane transport proteins (also known as transporters).  Transporters control the movement of ions, nutrients, and waste products across the membranes of a cell and are central to its physiology.  Proteins of this type also serve as drug targets and/or mediators of drug transport and hence play key roles in the phenomenon of drug resistance.

We are particularly interested in the transporters involved in drug action and drug resistance in the malaria parasite.  The malaria parasite is a single-celled microorganism which invades the red blood cells of its host.  Malaria remains a major infectious disease in many parts of the world, causing over 200 million cases and around 500,000 deaths per year. Moreover, malaria imposes horrendous economic burdens upon afflicted countries.  An effective vaccine remains elusive and reliance on chemotherapy is under serious threat with the emergence of parasites that are resistant to most, if not all, of the current antimalarial drugs.

Our main experimental system is the unfertilised oocyte of the frog Xenopus laevis, in which we express and study transporters from the parasite as well as from a range of other organisms.  We complement this system with live parasite assays that indirectly monitor the activity of a transporter within its native environment of the parasite-infected red blood cell.

We use a range of biochemistry, cell physiology, molecular biology, chemistry, and bioinformatic techniques to study:

  • Transporters of the malaria parasite and of other Apicomplexan parasites, with an emphasis on those involved in drug resistance and drug action

  • Design and testing of novel antimalarial drugs and antimalarial strategies

  • Transporters involved in key processes of biomedical, behavioural, or agricultural importance in other organisms, including those encoded by mammals, insects, and plants.

  • The functions and physiological roles of splice variants of transporters


Rowena Martin is an ARC Future Fellow (Level 2; 2017-2020) in the ANU Research School of Biology.  She carried out her PhD in the ANU School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, taking a multidisciplinary approach to understanding membrane transport in the malaria parasite.  Her work spans the fields of cell physiology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, and molecular biology.  In 2005 she took up a postdoc position at the ANU to pursue work she had initiated during her PhD on drug resistance in the malaria parasite and was awarded the 2007 Early Career Researcher Award of the ARC/NHMRC Research Network for Parasitology for this research.

In 2010, Rowena was awarded the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Early Career Research, a L’Oréal Australia For Women In Science Fellowship [YouTube], and an ACT Young Tall Poppy Science Award.  She has been active in promoting and communicating science in the community - from public lectures at the Australian Museum, the Shine Dome, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, and the Australian War Memorial, to playing the role of Naomi in the ABC's science soap CO2Lab.  Rowena has previously held a NHMRC Early Career Biomedical Fellowship (undertaken 2009-2012 at the University of Melbourne's School of Botany and ANU's Research School of Biology) and a NHMRC R.D. Wright Biomedical Fellowship (2013-16 at ANU's Research School of Biology).

Researcher's projects

Media coverage









  • Understanding how to combat drug resistance. Australia's Nobel Laureates, Adventures in Innovation (2nd edition); page 148





  • Malaria Discovery, ‘News Scan’ article by The Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Malaria's taste for salt:  Danielle Cronin, The Canberra Times.?


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Updated:  20 September 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers