I completed my PhD in Germany in 1999 and my postdoctoral time was at the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, La Jolla, USA.

In 2008 I returned from the USA to establish the" Cancer and Metabolism" research group at the Westmead  Institute of Medical Research in Sydney. In 2015 I moved to James Cook University to a tenured position, where I lecture on metabolic biochemistry in the medical school and lead a research group in the Discipline of Molecular and Cell Biology. The lab is situated in the Science Place and has excellent facilities.

The lab's current research focuses on two themes:

1. Genes regulating liver cancer progression and metabolism.

2. Genes regulating muscle growth and repair.

The laboratory utilises mouse and cellular models for our studies and we are always looking for motivated students who wish to run with a project. PhD students can apply for a JCU domestic or International MPhil/PhD Scholarship, or alternatively a scholarship from their home country to support their stay.  Applications for Internships and Masters Degrees are encouraged to enquire. Science Honours and Medical Honours students should approach me about their studies. We collaborate extensively with Clinicians in the Townsville University Hospital and pursue industry based collaborations.

We have published in Journals that include: Journal of Cell Science, Cancer Research, Oncogene, Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Hepatology,  Journal of Biological Chemistry, PLoS One, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease, BBA-Reviews on Cancer, Biomolecules and Scientific Reports - Nature.

Current Honours/Masters/PhD projects:

1. Understanding new regulators of liver cancer progression.

2. The role of novel genes in muscle growth.

For MPhil and PhD scholarships see:



I have supervised seven PhD, two Masters and five Honours students to completion. These students have received competitive PhD scholarships (e.g. Australian Postgraduate Award, NSW Cancer Institute, Saudi PhD scholarships), and won scientific awards (e.g. GESA Student Prizes and Tour De Cure Scholarships). Four of the Honours students have completed their Honours with first class. I have also had a number of Interns, Summer students, and European Masters students whom have performed their projects in my lab, from Iran, Denmark, China,  Netherlands and Switzerland.

Current group

Postdoc: Dr Miriam Wankell MSc PhD

Adjunct Postdoc: Dr Kylie Lopas BSc Hons PhD MBBS (Townsville University Hospital)

PhD Student: Lauren Taylor BSc Hons Ist Class

PhD Student: Rhys Gillman BSc MPhil

PhD Student: Dr Eun Jin Sun BA MBBS

Former students at JCU:

Brittany Dewdney, Casey Toft, Maxine Smith, Skye McGregor, Cong Chen, Berenice Charrez, Jade Sternberg, Roxanne Kreuter, Kaltrina Paloja, Cypriane Dormenval.

Former students at WIMR/USyd/Westmead:

Sarah Walker (PhD), Stephanie Obeid (PhD), Saeed Esmaili (PhD), Badr Alzahrani (PhD), Mohammed Alanazy (PhD), Medhi Ramezani-Moghadam (MPhil), Nikita Deo (Hons 1st Class), James Hendersen (Hons), Kristen Piper (Hons 1st Class), Lewis Tsang (Hons 1st Class).

Current Funding

Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowship, Chief Investigator,  2021.

Gastroenterological Society of Australia Grant, Chief Investigator, 2021-22.

SERTA Grant Townsville University  Hospital, The North Queeensland liver cancer library,  2020-22.

SERTA Grant Townsville University Hospital, Establishing the North Queensland Diabetic muscle stem cell library, 2021-23.

JCU Sandpit to Seed (S2S), New ways to make new muscle. Chief Investigator, 2020-21.

SERTA Grant  Townsville University  Hospital, Oropharyngeal Cancer and Stem Cells, 2019-21.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists Research Grant, 2019-21.

Precision Medicine for North Queensland Liver Patients. Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre. Chief Investigator, 2022-23.

SERTA Grant Townsville University Hospital, Establishing the North Queensland Liver Tumour Library: improving detection and treatment, 2023-25.

SERTA Grant Townsville University Hospital, Improving outcomes for patients with muscle wasting disease and liver cancer, 2023-24.

JCU Sandpit to Seed (S2S), Growing Clean Meat at Scale. Chief Investigator, 2023-24.


  • BC2013: Principles of Biochemistry (Level 2; TSV)
  • BC3102: Molecular Basis of Disease (Level 3; TSV)
  • BC3202: Special Topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Level 3; TSV)
  • BC5102: Advanced Molecular Basis of Disease (Level 5; TSV)
  • MD1010: Introduction to Integrated Medical Studies Part 1 of 2 (Level 1; CNS & TSV)
  • MD1020: Introduction to Integrated Medical Studies Part 2 of 2 (Level 1; TSV)
  • Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA)
  • European Society for the Study of the Liver
  • Australian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Role of metabolism in liver cancer progression
  • Muscle development and disease
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • 2020 to present - Associate Professor, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2018 to present - Associate Dean, Research, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2015 to 2019 - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2008 to 2015 - Group Leader, University of Sydney, Westmead Institute of Medical Research (Westmead, Sydney, Australia)
  • 2006 to 2008 - Staff Investigator, Burnham Institute (La Jolla, USA)
  • 2002 to 2006 - Postdoc, Burnham Institute (La Jolla, USA)
  • 1999 to 2002 - Postdoc, University Hospital, Zurich (Switzerland)
  • 1995 to 1998 - PhD, Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (Karlrsuhe, Germany)
  • 1991 to 1993 - MPhil, Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia)
  • 1985 to 1991 - Undergrad Science/Economics/Biochemistry, Griffith University and the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2017 to 2019 - QLD Cancer Council Project Grant
  • 2016 to 2017 - JCU Development Grant
  • 2013 to 2017 - NSW Cancer Council Project Grant
  • 2016 - 3 Minute Thesis Winner Established Researcher Category
  • 2013 - WMI Science prize
  • 2011 - NSW Cancer Council Innovation Grant
  • 2005 - Career Development Award from the Fishman Fund
  • 2020 to 2021 - Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowship
  • 2004 - Travel fellowship from the Keystone Conference Foundation
  • 1995 to 1999 - PhD Fellowship for Doctoral work from the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 1992 to 1993 - Fellowship from the Royal Australian College of Physicians for MPhil studies

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 56+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Lionel Hebbard from 2000 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Tour de Cure - PhD Scholarship

Precision Hepatocellular Carcinoma Treatment Using Synthetic Lethality

Indicative Funding
$10,000 over 1 year
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a major cause of cancer-related mortality. Current therapies for HCC show little efficacy due to extensive heterogeneity in the disease and a lack of corresponding patient-tailored treatment options. The purpose of this project is to validate various bioinformatic approaches to identifying personalised cancer driver genes and methods of targeting them through synthetic lethality. An integrated pipeline will be developed for the simple identification of therapeutics from sequencing of tissue biopsies. Finally, patient-derived organoids matched with patient-specific sequencing information will be used to validate this pipeline, building an important foundation for the future of personalised treatment.
Rhys Gillman, Lionel Hebbard, Matt Field and Ulf Schmitz (College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Liver Cancer; Genetics; Synthetic Lethality; Bioinformatics; Precision Medicine

Townsville Hospital and Health Service - Study Education Research Trust Account (SERTA)

Establishing the North Queensland Diabetic muscle stem cell library.

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 3 years (administered by Townsville Hospital and Health Service)
This project will develop a North Queensland Diabetic Muscle Library. Muscle tissue will be resected from patients and fixed and frozen. The tissues will also be dissociated and cultured to make primary myoblast cultures that will be used in future experiments in drug trials, sequencing and biochemical assays.
Pankaj Saxena, Craig McFarlane, Lionel Hebbard, Lisa Chilton, Zaaem Ahmed and Jaishankar Raman (Townsville Hospital and Health Services, College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Diabetes; metabolism; myogenesis

Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre Limited - Research Seed Grants

Precision medicine for North Queensland Liver Cancer Patients

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 2 years
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive and poorly treated liver cancer that is rapidly increasing in incidence in North Queensland. Most patients are ineligible to have their cancer surgically removed, and new systemic therapeutics only extend patient lives by six to eigth months. Thus, new treatment approaches are urgently required. Through the collaboration of surgeons, scientists and bioinformaticians we are developing Precision Medicine for North Queensland Liver Cancer Patients. Using bioinformatics and three dimensional culture models we will trial novel therapeutic approaches. This research will rapidly lead to new therapeutic approaches to treat HCC.
Lionel Hebbard, Pranavan Palamuthusingam, Craig McFarlane and Matt Field (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Townsville Hospital and Health Services and Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Cancer; Cancer Stem Cell; Organoids

Townsville Hospital and Health Service - Study Education Research Trust Account (SERTA)

Establishing the North Queensland Liver Cancer Library

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 2 years (administered by THHS)
This project will develop a North Queensland Liver Cancer Library. Liver tumours and non-tumour tissues will be resected from patients and fixed and frozen. The tissues will also be dissociated and cultured in three dimensions to make tumour organoids that will be used in future in vivo experiments in mice, drug trials and biochemical assays.
Pranavan Palamuthusingam, Lionel Hebbard, Craig McFarlane and Avjit Singh in collaboration with Miriam Wankell (Townsville Hospital and Health Services, College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Cancer; Cancer stem cells; Organoids

Gastroenterological Society of Australia - Project Grant

Determining the role of a novel gene in liver cancer.

Indicative Funding
$22,727 over 1 year
Liver cancer incidence is increasing dramatically in Australia. Through a genetic screen we have found a novel gene that associates with liver cancer cell DNA damage and metabolism. To investigate its function, we will perform cellular assays and tumour experiments to test how this gene regulates liver cancer growth. The proposed research will provide a better understanding of the factors that promote liver cancer and allow the development of new therapies to treat this devastating disease.
Lionel Hebbard in collaboration with Jacob George, Andreas Lopata and Malcolm McConville (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, University of Sydney and The University of Melbourne)
Cancer; Cancer stem cells; Liver Cancer

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Analysing the role of chimeric transcripts in human cancers (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Understanding a new regulator of skeletal muscle myogenesis (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Targeting DNA Repair in HCC through Synthetic Lethality (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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