Professor David L. Ollis

BSc (UNSW) PhD (Sydney)
Professor, Protein Crystallography and Engineering
ANU College of Science
T: (02) 6125 4377

Areas of expertise

  • Structural Biology (Incl. Macromolecular Modelling) 060112
  • Medicinal And Biomolecular Chemistry 0304
  • Environmental Biotechnology 1002
  • Other Biological Sciences 0699

Research interests

Protein engineering  - including directed evolution. We are interested in evolving enzymes for practical purposes and as a way of geining a better understanding of how they function. The sysytems we work on include enzymes involved in the breakdown of pesticides and enzymes involved in the production of bofuels. We are also interested using directed evolution to predict antibiotic resistance and have developed protocols to evolve proteins to be more soluble.

Structural biology - we use protein crystallography to determine the structures of interesting proteins - cell surface receptors such as the IL5 beta common receptor being one example. Most of our structure work is aimed at looking at the structures of proteins that have been evolved to have enhanced activities.



For his PhD, David Ollis worked in the laboratory of Professor Hans Freeman of the Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Sydney University. He was the first graduate student to solve a protein structure in Australia - this led to  post-doctoral position in the laboraory of Professor Tom Steitz (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008) of Yale University. During this time, Professor Ollis worked on the first structure of a DNA polymerase as well as the structures of a number of other proteins. This work resulted in a faculty position in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and cell Biology, Northestern Univerisy in Chicago.During this time he worked on the structure and function of the enzyme Dienelactone Hydrolase and as part of this study he was involved in the identification of a new protein fold - the alpha / beta hydroalse fold.  He managed to gain tenure and promotion Associate professor before returning to Australai to take up a position as a Senior Fellow in the Research School of Chemistry, of the Australian NNational University. He was promoted to promoted to the rank of Professor in 2005 and served as Head of the Chemistry Department from 2006 till 2008. His current research interests include protein engineering (direcetd evolution) and structural biology (protein crystallography).

Researcher's projects

Evolving better enzymes


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Updated:  16 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers