About Professor Mary Collins

My passion is to design and develop treatments for neurological disorders. I entered into research because I loved science at school. I also wanted to teach but did not want to teach at a high school so I chose a university. The university is place where new ideas are discovered whether it be a new trend or new knowledge. This is what keeps one young.

My research focuses on various ion channels, which are key targets for drugs that have important therapeutic actions on disorders such as pain, myopia, epilepsy, anxiety, depression and memory-related deficits implicated in Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.

A/Prof Collins (Chebib) has developed a vigorous research programme at the University of Sydney in the areas of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology. Her research focuses on various ion channels, which are key targets for drugs that have important therapeutic actions on disorders such as pain, myopia, epilepsy, anxiety, depression and memory-related deficits implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. She and her colleagues have made major contributions to the GABA and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) field including:

  1. Designing a number of novel and selective GABAC receptor ligands that show memory-enhancing effects in animal models leading to the publication of 3 international patents;
  2. Identifying key amino acids responsible for (a) changing the pharmacology of drugs from agonists to antagonists and (b) inverting the conductance of the ion channel from an anion to a cation conducting receptor in one mutation. Such work is important in understanding how genetic mutations associated with disease states behave towards different drug treatments;
  3.  Identifying a novel use of GABAC antagonists. These inhibit the progress of myopia in animal models. This is an important finding because in some Asian countries, the prevalence of myopia in children has reached epidemic proportions (80 - 90% prevalence). These trends are of concern because the rising prevalence is also coupled with an increased risk of severe eye diseases. No drug treatment is available on the market to date;
  4. Developing flexible and highly efficient methodology for the synthesis of nAChR agents based on the difficult to access 3-azabicyclo[3.3.1]nonane ring system and its congeners leading to the filing of an international patent application; and
  5. Developing a rapid, automated and comprehensive functional assay of the derived agents across a range of nAChR receptor subtypes including homomeric 7 and heteromeric 42 and 34 receptors.
Prof Collins has been recognized through prestigious awards including the ASCEPT Johnson & Johnson New Investigator Award (1998), the 2000 RACI BIOTA Holdings Award for Medicinal Chemistry and a finalist in the Innovative Challenge Award (2006). She presents her findings at National and International conferences and was invited to present at the World Chemistry Congress (Brisbane; 2001); Receptors/Channels/Transporters symposium at ASCEPT (2003); and the GABA and glycine receptor symposium at Australian Neuroscience Society (1999). A/Prof Collins partakes in reviewing manuscripts for a number of International journals and grant applications for both the NH&MRC and ARC. She is a member a number of societies including the RACI, ASCEPT, ANS and the Society for Neuroscience. She is an active member of the NHMRC Grant Review Panel (2005; 2007), RACI (Chair Biomolecular Chemistry Division 2003-2006) and ASCEPT. A/Prof Collins has a total of 52 publications and has attracted grants worth over $3 million dollars in the last 5 years.

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Selected publications

  • Mary Chebib, Jane R Hanrahan, Soraya Wooller; Gwendolyn Morriss, Rohan J Kumar, Kenneth N Mewett, Graham AR Johnston (2007) (3-Aminocyclopentyl)methylphosphinic acids: Novel GABA-C receptor antagonists Neuropharmacol 52 779-787 [IF = 3.637].
  • Jill Halliday, Mary Chebib, Peter Turner, Malcolm D McLeod (2006) Double-Mannich Annulation of Cyclic ketones using N,N-Bis(ethoxymethyl)alkylamine Reagents Organic Letters 8(15): 3399-3401 [IF = 4.368].
  • Crittenden DL, Park, A, Qiu J, *Silverman RB, Duke RK, Johnston GAR, Jordan MJT and Chebib M (2006) Enantiomers of cis-constrained and flexible 2-substituted GABA analogues exert opposite effects at recombinant GABA-C receptors Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, 14, 447-455.
  • Carland JE, Moorhouse AJ, Barry PH, Johnston GAR and Chebib M (2004) Charged residues at the 2’ position of human GABAC 1 receptors invert ion selectivity and influence open state probability J Biol Chem, 279, 54153-54160.
  • Carland JE, Moore A, Hanrahan JR, Mewett KN, Duke RK, Johnston GAR, Chebib M (2004) Mutations of the 2' proline in the M2 domain of the human GABAC 1 subunit alter agonist responses Neuropharmacol. 46(6):770-781.
  • Vien J, Duke RK, Mewett KN, Johnston GAR, Shingai R, Chebib M (2002) trans-4-Amino-2-methylbut-2-enoic acid and (±)-trans-2-aminomethylcyclopropanecarboxylic acid differentiate rat p3 from human pl and p2 recombinant GABAC receptors. Br. J. Pharmacol., 135, 883 - 890.
  • Hanrahan JR, Mewett KN, Chebib M, Burden PM, Johnston GAR (2001) An improved, versatile synthesis of the GABAC antagonists (1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridin-4-yl) methylphosphinic acid (TPMPA) and (piperidin-4-yl) methylphosphinic acid (P4MPA) J. Chem. Soc. Perkins Trans. I, 19, 2389-2392.
  • Duke RK, Chebib M, Allan RD, Mewett KN, Johnston GAR (2000) (+)- and (-)- CAMP (cis-2-aminomethylcyclopropanecarboxylic acid), show opposite pharmacology at recombinant p and p2 GABAC receptors, J. Neurochem., 75 (6), 2602 – 2610.
  • Chebib M, Mewett KN, Johnston GAR (1998) GABAC receptor antagonists differentiate between human p1 and p2 receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes, Eur. J. Pharmacol., 357, 227-234.
  • Chebib M, Vandenberg RJ, Johnston GAR (1997) Analogues of g-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and trans-4-aminocrotonic acid (TACA) substituted in the 2 position as GABA - receptor antagonists, Br. J Pharmacol., 122, 1551-1560.