Luke Connal

veski innovation fellow

Dr Connal accepted a veski innovation fellowship worth $150,000 over three years. The funding will be matched in cash and in-kind by his host organisation The University of Melbourne.

Prior to returning to Victoria, Dr Connal was a post doctorial researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara.

On his most recent return to Victoria, he took up a senior research position at the University of Melbourne in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Research project title: Design and synthesis of enzyme mimics: Materials of the future

Research project summary:

Nature’s complex and detailed systems which support the production of energy or immune defences, among other things, demonstrate amazing control of chemistry.

This elegant control of biochemical processes relies on the efficiency and specificity of biology’s catalysts, known as enzymes. Enzymes are amazing biomolecules that control complex functions, from digestion in mammals, to photosynthesis in plants. If even a small portion of these remarkable macromolecules can be replicated, the result will be new and paradigm-shifting technologies.

Dr Connal’s project will develop enzyme mimicry technologies with a number of potential applications including low temperature detergents, renewable production of biodiesel, and anti-bacterial coatings that stem the spread of disease.

Dr Connal’s group will engineer, synthesize and evaluate molecules for enzyme mimicry. Initially, he will focus research efforts on one specific class of enzymes – protease mimics – and he will develop methods similar to nature to control their primary, secondary and tertiary structure.

The main avenue he will be investigating is the application of enzyme mimics in detergents. In the near future, he aims to further develop the chemistry with regard to many other diverse applications.

He will also endeavour to provide proof-of-concept experiments to attract, for this avenue of research, supporting funding from commercial and government sources.

In addition, he will apply this chemistry to develop antibacterial coatings that could stem the flow of diseases.

The chemistry Dr Connal is developing will be a platform for a range of applications, from pharmaceutical synthesis to energy production.

He will also continue to draw on his connections with large multinational chemical companies, including DOW Chemical and Unilever.

Key facts:

  • Luke returns to Victoria with his wife, who is also involved in the Victorian science and innovation communities, and their young daughter.
  • During his time with the Hawker Laboratory, he was supported by a Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship from the American Australian Association and an Australian Linkage International Fellowship from the Australian Research Council.
  • Throughout his career, he has received several fellowships including a 2007 Victoria Fellowship which allowed him to travel to Spain and undertake research alongside Professor Luis M. Liz-Marzán at the Universida de Vigo.






“There are many great challenges for a new academic … finding the right people, finding the right infrastructure and obviously funding as well to get your research done and veski has really been able to help out on all of those counts”

Luke Connal