Associate Professor Paul Tooney

Affiliate Investigator - University of Newcastle

Associate Professor Tooney is a member of the Centre for Drug Repurposing and Medicines Research at the University of Newcastle. He has a keen interest in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of diseases, so that better diagnoses and treatment strategies can be developed. His research background during his PhD and postdoctoral work was in cancer biology where he gained experience in cellular and molecular biology techniques. He then moved into the brain and has studied schizophrenia and brain cancer.

Associate Professor Tooney's research from 1998 to 2017 focused on the neurobiology and genetics underpinning schizophrenia. He has conducted and collaborated on world-class studies detailing the changes to gene expression in the brain and also the blood from patients with schizophrenia. These studies showed that people with schizophrenia have distinct changes in their expression of genes in their brains and the blood. Interestingly many of these studies suggest changes in genes that have roles in the immune system and inflammatory processes. As part of these efforts Paul played a major role in the establishment of the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB), which recruits participants with schizophrenia and controls and collects clinical and cognitive data as well as blood samples for genetic analysis and MRI structural brain scans from the participants. This huge data resource is currently being investigated by many groups to improve our understanding of what causes schizophrenia so that we can better identify who is likely to develop schizophrenia so that we can identify new treatments or preventative strategies for this devastating disorder.

In 2017, Associate Professor Tooney started collaborating with Dr Michael Fay, Associate Professor Nikola Bowden and Dr Moira Graves to study the most devastating adult brain cancer, glioblastoma. This new area of research is focused on understanding how we can overcome treatment resistance in glioblastoma. We are investigating targets for a new approach to treatment called theranostics and also investigating the repurposing of drugs to improve current treatments and overcome resistance in glioblastoma.

Associate Professor Tooney is co-supervisor of two ACRE-supported HDR students both investigating the potential of cannabis as a therapeutic treatment in brain cancer.