Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Applied Chemistry, 2006; Doctor of Philosophy in Science, 2009
Head of Atomic Pathology Laboratory, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
UTS Young Alumni Award 2018
Analytical chemist Dr Dominic Hare believes Parkinson’s disease will be as treatable as diabetes in 20 years’ time, if research is adequately funded. In part, that’s due to work he began in his mid-20s with Professor Philip Doble. In 2008, the two co-founded UTS’s Elemental Bio-Imaging facility, where they developed a method of mapping periodic elements in human tissue.
“The technology was really designed for the mining industry; it’s for measuring elements in rocks using lasers,” says Hare. “But it allows us to see how these fundamental building blocks of life – chemical elements – change in disease. We can look at very tiny changes in one element and how it relates to another and another … and that gives you the signature of a disease.”
At age 30, Hare was made a fellow of The Royal Society of Chemistry. Awarded a UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the same year, he used the opportunity to share his imaging technology with The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. “That's the role I’ve aspired to take since I was at UTS,” he says. “I want to shorten the time it takes from understanding how a disease happens to actually using that information in a medical laboratory to develop new treatments.”
I want to shorten the time it takes from understanding how a disease happens to actually using that information in a medical laboratory to develop new treatments.
A visiting fellow at UTS, Hare now heads Florey’s Atomic Pathology Laboratory. Working with researchers in Australia and abroad, he’s helped identify what’s thought to be one of the first chemical reactions that triggers Parkinson’s. “These two chemicals – iron and dopamine, which we have to have in our brain – don't play very nicely together,” he says. “We think they're coming into contact and making really toxic chemicals.”
Scientists in France are conducting a ‘phase two’ trial of a drug that’s expected to stall the disease by targeting this reaction. Hare hopes it can also be used as a preventative measure and is working on a technology that analyses a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s. “With Parkinson’s, you don't show symptoms until 50 per cent of the cells that die in the brain have already died, so I’m trying to identify people who are at risk before those cells have started dying.”
Hare is driven by his own experience of the disease: he was in the early years of his PhD when he lost his “surrogate grandmother” to Parkinson’s. He now travels around regional Australia as a scientific liaison for Parkinson’s Australia. “I think it’s important to provide information to people with the disease and their carers,” he says. “And it's amazing to see how much they care about the research being done.”