Dr David Zahra

Group Leader - Genomic Engineering

Senior Research Officer

David obtained his Honours degree in Science from the University of Sydney in 1991 where he majored in Chemistry and Genetics.  He completed his PhD in 1995 under the supervision of Roger Reddel at the Children’s Medical Research Institute where he worked on viral proteins that facilitate the immortalisation of human cells. 

In 1996 he took up a research scientist position at the CRC for Biopharmaceuticals where he developed an in vitro antibody library maturation process to improve the ability to isolate antibodies against a number of targets.  In 1999 he moved to the University of NSW and undertook studies into the causes of rheumatoid arthritis and developed a tissue bank from arthritic patients in conjunction with St Vincent’s Hospital at Darlinghurst.

In 2002, he was recruited to the Garvan Institute’s Immunology program.  David developed a number of antibodies for the treatment of inflammatory disease.  Antibodies were isolated from mice against a number of difficult targets and these antibodies were shown to be effective in the treatment of inflammatory disease.  Two key antibodies were humanise and developed for pre-clinical analysis prior to being licenced to major pharmaceutical companies for human pre-clinical and clinical trials. 

In 2013, David was appointed as a Group Leader of the Genomic Engineering Group in the Institute’s Immunology Division. 

Research Interests

Mouse genomic modification
TALEN mediated genomic modification
CRISPR mediated genomic modification
Antibody humanisation
Antibody functional studies
Antibody Therapeutics
Molecular Biology


1997 - PhD, University of Sydney - Australia
1990 - BSc(Hons), University of Sydney - Australia


Mackay, C. and Zahra, D.  CRC for Asthma and Airways Ltd.  Therapeutic Molecules.  WO 2011/153592 A1 Published Dec 15, 2011.

Whitfeld, P., Zahra, D. and Mackay C. G2 Inflammation Pty Ltd.  HUMANIZED ANTI-C5aR ANTIBODIES. WO 2009/103113 A1 Published Aug 27, 2009.

Zahra, D. and Mackay, C.  CRC for Asthma and Airways Ltd.  Epitope for neutralizing antibodies. WO 2009/062238 A1.  Published May 22, 2009

Zahra, D. and Mackay, C. CRC for Asthma and Airways Ltd.  Neutralizing antibodies. WO 2008141391 A1.  Published Nov 27, 2008

Vancov, T., Zahra, D., Hawkins, N.J. and Ward, R.L. WO 1997/009436 A1.  CRC for Biopharmaceutical Research Pty Ltd:  Method for producing phage display vectors.  Published Mar 13, 1997. 

Selected Publications

Bamberg CE, Mackay CR, Lee H, Zahra D, Jackson J, Lim YS, Whitfeld PL, Craig S, Corsini E, Lu B, Gerard C, Gerard NP. The C5a receptor (C5aR) C5L2 is a modulator of C5aR-mediated signal transduction.  J Biol Chem. 2010; 285(10):7633-44.

Nossent JC, Lester S, Zahra D, Mackay CR, Rischmueller M. Polymorphism in the 5' regulatory region of the B-lymphocyte activating factor gene is associated with the Ro/La autoantibody response and serum BAFF levels in primary Sjogren's syndrome.  Rheumatology.  2008; 47(9):1311-6.

Lee H, Zahra D, Vogelzang A, Newton R, Thatcher J, Quan A, So T, Zwirner J, Koentgen F, Padkjaer SB, Mackay F, Whitfeld PL, Mackay CR. Human C5aR knock-in mice facilitate the production and assessment of anti-inflammatory monoclonal antibodies. Nat Biotechnol. 2006; 24(10):1279-84.

Lehmann T, Murphy C, Zahra DG, Handel ML. Reduction of tumor necrosis factor induced nuclear factor-kappaB nuclear translocation and DNA binding by dexamethasone in human osteoarthritic synovial tissue explants. J Rheumatol.  2002; 29: 787-795.

Kolzau, T., Hansen, R., Zahra, D., Reddel, R. and Braithwaite, A.  Inhibition of SV40 large T antigen-induced apoptosis by small T antigen.  Oncogene, 1999; 18:5598-5603.

Zahra, D.G., Vancov, T., Dunn, J.M., Hawkins, N.J. and Ward, R.L.  Selectable in vivo recombination to increase antibody library size - an improved phage display vector system. Gene 1999; 227:49-54. 

De Silva, R., Zahra, D.G., Duncan, E.L. and Reddel, R.R.:  Immortalization of human fibroblasts by liposome-mediated transfer of SV40 early region genes.  Methods in Cell Science, 1995; 17:75-81.

Reddel, R.R., De Silva, R.R., Duncan, E.L., Rogan, E.M., Whitaker, N.J., Zahra, D.G., Ke, Y., McMenamin, M.G., Gerwin, B.I. and Harris, C.C.:  SV40-induced immortalization and ras-transformation of human bronchial epithelial cells.  Int J Cancer, 1994; 61:199-205.

Dr David Zahra