Professor Harald Janovjak

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Personal profile

Research Interests

“What I cannot create, I do not understand.” Richard Feynman (1988)

Cells are the fundamental building blocks of life. Their unique and diverse functions rely on a plethora of chemical and physical processes that are fine-tuned in space and in time. My research lies at the interface of engineering and physiology with a focus on reconstructing these inner cellular workings in health and disease.

My research group has established new engineering methods to "remote control" various processes in cells, including those that are normally activated by hormones or neurotransmitters. The end goal of this work is to balance dysregulated cellular behaviours, in particular the survival of cancer cells and nerve cells. Our methods offer spatial precision (down to millimeters), e.g. to activate only selected cells or tissues ex vivo and in vivo, and temporal precision (down to seconds), e.g. to intervene with specific stages during animal development and disease progression. We are currently applying these methods, which include but are not limited to optogenetics, in disease models in cells, the mouse and the fruit fly.

As selected achievements, we have reversed the pathological consequences induced by a genetic alteration that is linked to early onset Parkinson's disease (PLoS Genet. 2021), developed the largest and most flexible optogenetic engineering platform (J. Mol. Biol. 2019), unmasked the biochemical capacity of orphan receptor drug targets (Nat. Comm. 2018), and identified a drug candidate that inactivates a key driver of lung cancer growth (Nat. Chem. Biol. 2015). The next major challenge we will tackle is to expand our current capabilities to modify cells and proteins on unprecedented scales, e.g. spanning the entire genome.

For more information, please refer to the bibliography below, Harald's CV on his staff member profile, and also the Janovjak Group website (


The Janovjak Group is hiring:
Two fully-funded PhD scholarship positions are available. Please refer to or the Flinders University Scholarship database for further information, or simply reach out to Harald. Past graduate students of the group have received many awards (please refer to Harald's staff member profile and the tab 'HDR supervision') and secured excellent and diverse positions, including at prestigious institutions (e.g. at Stanford University and the University of Bordeaux) or in industry (e.g. at Roche AG and Takeda Pharmaceutical Ltd.).


The vision of the Janovjak Group:
We aim to be global pioneers in large-scale protein engineering to understand and cure disease.

The core values of the Janovjak Group:
Collegiality: We look after each other and support each other in the best way we can; we interact with our colleagues and the community following the same principles.
Ownership: We strive for excellence and each dedicate ourselves to conducting high quality research; we try to inspire others to do the same.
Bravery: We are fearless when it comes to defining new biomedical problems; we understand that the opportunity to be pioneers is a privilege.


Research Biography

My research has resulted in over 30 first or senior author publications in, e.g., EMBO Journal, Nature Neuroscience, Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Communications, Angewandte Chemie; and shared senior author publications in, e.g., Cell Reports and eLife. Our research has been supported by both national research funding sources (e.g. ARC, NHMRC, JDRF Australia) and international sources (e.g. HFSP, EUFP7), with more than AU$7,000,000 competitive grant funding in the past ten years. We have also filed six patent applications thus far, and our interest in research translation and commercialisation continues unabated.


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