Associate Professor Jasna Rakonjac staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84716

Associate Professor Jasna Rakonjac PhD

Associate Professor

School of Fundamental Sciences

I am a molecular biologist / biochemist / biotechnologist / microbiologist. My research has emphasis on technological innovations that will find their ultimate applications in medicine, veterinary science, agriculture and mitigation of greenhouse gas emission.

Expertise credentials / areas:

  • Co-inventor, new tools for phage display technology.
  • Co-inventor, gene for the Serum Opacity Factor of Streptococcus pyogenes and its use in detection of important human serum health indicators: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL or "good cholesterol") and fibronectin.
  • Bacteriophages (bacterial viruses) in cheese-making industry and biotechnology
  • Phage display technology and applications in

diagnostics

vaccine design

bionanotechnology

  • Bacterial interactions with environment, host and immune system

focus on probiotic bacteria and rumen microbial community

  • Antibiotic discovery
  • Rumen microbial ecology, including mitigation of greenhouse gases (extensive collaboration with AgReserach)

See also my profile at Google Citations: http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=N6BHLWoAAAAJ

Filamentous phage assembly and replication, phage display application in bionanotechnology and antibacterial development are the dominant activities in my laboratory.

More about me...View less...

Professional

Contact details

  • Ph: 069517716
    Location: ScTC4.10, Science Tower C
    Campus: Turitea

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy - Rockefeller University (1998)
  • Master of Sciences - University of Belgrade (1989)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

The central theme of my research programme is biology of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages or phages) and their biotechnology applications in medicine and agriculture. Phage display and other methods are used in my research programme to study protein-protein interactions in cell-signalling and host-bacterial interactions. My key research activities are:

Phage display technology, agricultural and medical applications

By changing the shape and size of the bacteriophage, and eliminating the phage genes, we have produced a novel type of functionalised biological nanoparticle, thereby harnessing phages for applications in vaccine development, diagnostics and tissue targeting.

Through mastering bacteriophage biology, my laboratory has developed a new technology to identify, among thousands of bacterial proteins, those that have specific functions of interest. Using this approach, we have discovered unique surface proteins in probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (commercial name DR20) that may be involved in bacterial association with host cells. This methodology has now been extended to the whole microbial community, representing a novel approach to understand key agricultural and environmental processes such as forage digestion and methane emission (in collaboration with AgResearch).

Antibiotic development

The study of unusual "secreted" phages of E. coli has led to characterisation of a gigantic gated filamentous phage- and toxin-secreting channel in E. coli and hospital-acquired pathogen Klebsiella. Manipulation of the channel gate or valve renders Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria sensitive to widely used antibiotics, the fact that can be utilized to overcome antibiotic resistance.

Thematics

Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Bacteriology (060501): Biochemistry and Cell Biology (060100): Biological Sciences (060000): Cell Metabolism (060104): Cellular Interactions (incl. Adhesion, Matrix, Cell Wall) (060106): Infectious Agents (060502): Microbial Ecology (060504): Microbial Genetics (060503): Microbiology (060500): Protein Trafficking (060108): Receptors and Membrane Biology (060110): Synthetic Biology (060113): Virology (060506)

Keywords

phage display

bionanotechnology

bacteriophage

antibiotic discovery

bacteriology

bacterial surfaces

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 7 33
Team Member 0 1

Current Projects

Project Title: PSAF: System for production of protein-DNA nanorods

Date Range: 2016 - 2019

Funding Bodies: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Massey Ventures Ltd

Project Team:

Completed Projects

Project Title: Overcoming antibiotic resistance

This project aims to develop novel antibacterials that will overcome the current inability to cure stubborn or recurrent infections by Gram-negative bacteria such as Klebsiella, uropathogenic E. coli, Pseudomonas, Enterobacter, Haemophillus, Moraxella, Pasteurella, Francisella, Acinetobacter and others. These are community- or hospital-acquired or zoonotic infections affecting all ages and both genders, causing pneumonia, food poisoning, and a range of infections of skin, wounds, medical implants, middle ear, eye and urinary tract.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2012 - ongoing

Funding Bodies: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Massey Ventures Ltd; Massey University

Project Team:

Research Outputs

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Mentoring a new generation of scientists

During my tenure at Massey University (2003-2020) I have supervised as the primary supervisor to completion:

 13 PhD students

18 MSc students

4 BScHons students

3 PgDip students

All PhD graduates are successful emerging scientists, two are PIs eading their own research programmes in New Zealand and USA.

Courses Coordinated

Graduate Supervision Statement

My strategy is to mentor, rather than supervise postgraduate students, 

Mentor's role is to foster sutdents' development into emerging scientists.


Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 3 16
Co-supervisor 2 6

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Rayen Leon - Doctor of Philosophy
    Characterisation of the filamentous bacteriophage end-caps
  • Catrina Olivera - Doctor of Philosophy
    Synergistic antibacterial combinations
  • Marina Rajic - Doctor of Philosophy
    Development and applications of filamentous phage-derived particles in immunotherapy and diagnostics

Co-supervisor of:

  • Linda Ogutu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Segmented filamentous bacteria: initiators of infant intestinal barrier maturation
  • Jennifer Tu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Understanding the molecular mechanism of an environmentally friendly method for preserving and depilating sheep skin: the advantages and disadvantages for the New Zealand leather industry.

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2019 - Van Hung Vuong Le - Doctor of Philosophy
    Antibiotic Combinations to Tackle Gram-negative Bacterial Pathogens
  • 2016 - Yang Li - Doctor of Philosophy
    Comparative genomics of rumen methanogens
  • 2016 - Preeti Raju - Doctor of Philosophy
    Homoacetogenesis as an alternative hydrogen sink in the rumen
  • 2016 - Nikola Palevich - Doctor of Philosophy
    Comparative genomics of Butyrivibrio and Pseudobutyrivibrio from the rumen
  • 2016 - Wesley Wen - Doctor of Philosophy
    Identification and functional characterisation of a novel surface protein complex of Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • 2015 - Julian Spagnuolo - Doctor of Philosophy
    Extracytoplasmic Stress Responses Induced by a Model Secretin
  • 2015 - Sofia Khanum - Doctor of Philosophy
    Characterization of the secretins, large outer membrane channels of Gram-negative bacteria
  • 2014 - Milica Ciric - Doctor of Philosophy
    Metasecretome phage display: A new approach for mining surface and secreted proteins from microbial communities
  • 2014 - Sadia Sattar - Doctor of Philosophy
    Filamentous phage-derived nano-rods for applications in diagnostics and vaccines
  • 2013 - Samantha Noel - Doctor of Philosophy
    Cultivation and community composition analysis of plant-adherent rumen bacteria
  • 2013 - Christopher Kirk - Doctor of Philosophy
    The DELLA Protein Family and Gibberellin Signal Transduction
  • 2010 - David Sheerin - Doctor of Philosophy
    Characterisation of the interactions of RGL1; a negative regulator of gibberellin signalling
  • 2010 - Nicholas Bennett - Doctor of Philosophy
    Unlocking the M13 (fl and fd) virion: Investigation into the role of the pIII C-domain of F specific filamentous bacteriophage in infection
  • 2009 - Carl Yeoman - Doctor of Philosophy
    Characterisation of Butyrivibrio megaplasmids
  • 2009 - Dragana Jankovic - Doctor of Philosophy
    Direct selection and phage display of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 secretome

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2019 - Sean Bisset - Doctor of Philosophy
    Understanding the mechanism of action of the glycosylated bacteriocin glycocin F
  • 2018 - Shirin Ghods - Doctor of Philosophy
    Investigation of Biosynthesis of Exopolysaccharides within the Biofilm Matrix of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae
  • 2017 - Patricia Rubio Reyes - Doctor of Philosophy
    Novel polyhydroxyalkanoate beads for use as a vaccine against tuberculosis
  • 2017 - Filomena Ng - Doctor of Philosophy
    Identification and functional characterization of adhesins involved in attachment of methanogens to rumen protozoa
  • 2017 - Muhammad Faisal - Doctor of Philosophy
    Functional Characterisation of Constitutive Expresser of Pathogenesis-Related Genes 5
  • 2011 - Milena Mitic - Doctor of Philosophy
    Investigation of the molecular basis of symbiosis between Epichloe festucae and perennial ryegrass

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