Dr Niliksha Gunewardene – Bionics Institute

Dr Niliksha Gunewardene

Research Fellow B.BMed, PostGradDipMSc, PhD,

Dr Niliksha Gunewardene

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.

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

Research interests

  • Epigenetic regulation of hair cell differentiation
  • Drug delivery strategies into the inner ear
  • Gene therapy for hair cell regeneration
  • Stem cell therapy for auditory neuron replacement

Student projects

Selected publications

  • Gunewardene N*, Lenz DR*, Abdul-Aziz DE, Wang Q, Gibson TM, Edge ASB (2019). Applications of Lgr5-positive cochlear progenitors (LCPs) to the study of hair cell differentiation. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, ePub ahead of print.
  • Gunewardene N, Crombie D, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. (2016). Innervation of cochlear hair cells by human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons in vitro. Stem Cells International, Volume 2016, Article ID 1781202, 10 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/1781202
  • Gunewardene N, Van Bergen N, Needham K, Crombie D, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. (2014). “Directing human induced pluripotent stem cells into a neurosensory lineage for auditory neuron replacement” BioResearch Open Access, Volume 3, Issue 4, Page 162-175.
  • Needham, K, Hyakumura, T*, Gunewardene, N*, Dottori, M and Nayagam, BA. (2014). “Electrophysiological properties of neurosensory progenitors derived from human embryonic stem cells.” Stem cell Research, Volume 12, Issue 1, Page 241-249.
  • Gunewardene, N, Guo, XC, Wong, YCA, Thorne, RP, Vlajkovic, MS (2013). “Adenosine Amine Congener Ameliorates Cisplatin-Induced Hearing Loss.” World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, Volume 3, Issue 3, Page 100-107.
  • Gunewardene N, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. (2012). The convergence of cochlear implantation with induced pluripotent stem cell therapy. Stem Cells Reviews and Reports, Volume 8, Issue 3, Page 741-754.
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