Dr Niliksha Gunewardene is a Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute. Niliksha completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (2010). She subsequently completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne (2014) and then accepted a Research Fellow position at the Harvard Medical School based at the Massachusetts Eye and Infirmary (2014-2018).

Dr Gunewardene has a background in molecular biology, auditory neuroscience and stem cell biology. The overall objective of Dr Gunewardene’s research is to develop therapies to regenerate the sensory hair cells and neurons in the inner ear after hearing loss. In particular, she is interested in identifying key molecular pathways that drive hearing loss and regeneration. Dr Gunewardene has significant expertise in gene therapy, drug therapies, stem cells and organoid techniques. More recently, she has been exploring the application of nanotherapeutics for regenerating the sensory neurons of the inner ear.

Niliksha’s work has been published in high ranking peer reviewed journals and book chapters. She also has a provisional US patent focused on her discovery of a novel molecular pathway that drives regeneration in the cochlea. Dr Gunewardene’s research has been presented at both national and international conferences worldwide. She has also been invited to present her research over two consecutive years (2019 and 2020) at the prestigious Association for Research in Otolaryngology Meeting held in the US.

Niliksha has been in the hearing research field for over 10 years and is committed to achieving her research objective of obtaining a treatment for hearing loss. She has established strong collaborations with several senior researchers in both academia (Harvard University and University of Melbourne) and industry (Akouos Inc.). In addition, she has supervised Research Assistants, Masters and PhD students at the University of Melbourne and Harvard University. Dr Gunewardene is also an advocate for women in science and has been active at supporting students and junior scientists navigate their career pathways.

E: [email protected]

Dr Gunewardene is currently accepting students for her projects (see list below):

Research projects

Restoring hearing

Student projects

Testing nano-engineered drug delivery systems to treat hearing loss

Developing a drug therapy for hearing loss

Recent publications

  1. Gunewardene N, Crombie DE, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. Innervation of cochlear hair cells by human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neurons in vitro. Stem Cells Int 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/1781202

  2. Needham, K., T. Hyakumura, N. Gunewardene, M. Dottori and B. A. Nayagam (2014). Electrophysiological properties of neurosensory progenitors derived from human embryonic stem cells. Stem Cell Research, 12(1): 241-249.

  3. Gunewardene, N., N. Van Bergen, D. Crombie, K. Needham, M. Dottori and B. A. Nayagam (2014). Directing human induced pluripotent stem cells into a neurosensory lineage for auditory neuron replacement. BioResearch Open Access 3(4): 162-175.