Our People

Katja Fischer

Dr | Group Leader

Scabies

+61 7 3362 0417

katja.fischer@qimrberghofer.edu.au

 

CAREER HISTORY

Dr Katja Fischer (ARC Future Fellow 2013, NHMRC SRF 2019) is a Group Leader at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. She completed her undergraduate training as a molecular Parasitologist at the University of Freiburg, Germany, followed by a PhD in molecular biology of malaria parasites at the University of Würzburg, Germany, followed by post doc positions at QIMR Berghofer MRI. Here she became Laboratory Head in 2007 and Group Leader in 2013. Her laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer MRI is one of very few groups worldwide providing crucial biomedical research towards reducing scabies and associated secondary infections.

 

CURRENT APPOINTMENTS

2014-present: Group Leader, Scabies Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer

2018-present: NHMRC Senior Research Fellow

2012-present: Adjunct Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology

2005-present: Adjunct appointment, School of Natural Sciences, Griffith University

2000-present: Conjoint Academic Level B appointment with the Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland

 

PREVIOUS APPOINTMENTS

2010-2014: Laboratory Head, Scabies Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer

2013-2018: ARC Future Fellow

2010-2014: Laboratory Head, Scabies Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer

2003-2010: Senior Research Officer, QIMR Berghofer

1999-2003: Research Officer, QIMR Berghofer

1994-1998: PhD candidate, University of Würzburg

 

ORCID NUMBER

0000-0003-3408-3337

 

RESEARCHER ID

H-4989-2014

 

CURRENT RESEARCH

Scabies and associated bacterial skin infections continue to be a global problem. They result in a truly neglected, underrated yet significant health burden associated with overcrowding of people living in remoteness and poverty, including Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There is no vaccine for scabies, only few suboptimal broad-spectrum anti-parasitic drugs and mite resistance against these drugs emerging. Another major challenge is the lack of early diagnostic markers for infection, to distinguish scabies from numerous skin conditions with similar symptoms. Dr Fischer is leading the only Australian group exploring scabies molecular biology in a formal, long-term, continuously funded research program.

Our program drives the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Our research has changed the knowledge of mite biology, scabies pathogenesis and the mechanisms underlying the three-way interactions between mites, bacteria and the skin immune system. We have attracted a critical mass of the best expert collaborating scientists and established essential industry links for the successful implementation of this multi-center, multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary program. Our work has major translational implications, globally and for Australian Indigenous patients.

 

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

  • identified multiple therapeutic and diagnostic candidates, drug targets with pharmaceutical potential and molecular mechanisms underlying scabies pathogenesis
  • our international scabies microbiome program involves clinicians in India, France and remote Australia
  • provide an integrated multi-omics database and a powerful in vivo model facilitating pre-clinical work 
  • produced the first recombinant proteins/crystal structures for scabies mites
  • defined virulence factors that interfere with complement, coagulation and the skin barrier 
  • defined molecular mechanisms underlying mite/bacterial co-infections

 

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

  • Associate Editor PLoS NTD since 2010
  • Grant reviews since 2001 (NHMRC, ARC, NIH)
  • Invited Chief Editor of a book in a series on NTDs with Springer Nature
  • Scientific Advisor ‘Orange Sky Australia’
  • Founding member and Lead Scientific Advisor of ‘IACS’, the sole international alliance advocating for scabies

 

AWARDS RECOGNITION

2020: The Bancroft-Meckerras Medal for Excellence, awarded by the Australian Society of Parasitology

2019-2023: NHMRC SRF

2014: QIMR Group Leader, Faculty

2013-2018: ARC Future Fellow

2002: Prize for best poster presentation at Molecular Parasitology Meeting

1994: German PhD Scholarship awarded for four years for women enrolling for PhD while supporting young children

 

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

2003-2010: Senior Research Officer, QIMR Berghofer

1999-2003: Research Officer, QIMR

1994-98: PhD Molecular Parasitology, University of Würzburg, Germany

1997: “Course on Vectors and Vector Borne Diseases in Africa’’ in Bamako, Mali, Africa. Travel, tuition and expenses sponsored by the Mac Arthur Foundation, USA

1991: Diploma Biology/Parasitology, University of Freiburg, Germany