Dr Alex Swarbrick

ProMis Team Leader Profile

Alex-SwarbrickDr Alex Swarbrick, BSc Hons, PhD

Laboratory Head, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Co-Head, Breast Translational Oncology Program, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre

Full research profile


Dr Swarbrick graduated with a Bsc (Hons I) in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of New South Wales in 1995. After obtaining his PhD in 2003, Dr Swarbrick undertook postdoctoral training with J. Michael Bishop at the University of California, San Francisco, supported by a CJ Martin Travelling Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In 2008, he established the Tumour Progression Laboratory in the Garvan Institute and in 2012 was appointed co-Head of the Breast Translational Oncology Program in the newly commissioned Kinghorn Cancer Centre. Dr Swarbrick is a Career Development Fellow of the NHMRC.

Dr Swarbrick’s primary research interests are the mechanisms driving inter- and intra-tumoural heterogeneity and the implications for neoplastic progression, metastasis and therapeutic response. Dr Swarbrick has focused on gene regulation by transcriptional networks and microRNAs, with a disease focus on breast and prostate carcinoma and the childhood cancer neuroblastoma. His laboratory combines fundamental discovery techniques including single cell transcriptomics to deconvolute transcriptional heterogeneity with genome-scale functional genomics to functionally annotate new regulatory networks in malignancy.

Dr Swarbrick also has a strong track record in the discovery, development and preclinical validation of novel therapeutic targets and molecular biomarkers, using ‘state of the art’ patient-derived xenograft and transgenic models of disease in collaboration with clinical partners. He was the first to demonstrate therapeutic benefit from systemic delivery of a drug-like microRNA inhibitor in vivo, and his laboratory was the first to demonstrate paracrine Hedgehog signaling as a novel therapeutic target for high-risk basal breast cancer.

Dr Swarbrick’s research is currently supported by the NH&MRC, National Breast Cancer Foundation, ANZ Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Group, Kids Cancer Project, Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Cancer Council NSW.