I completed my PhD with Professor Roger Summers at the Department of Pharmacology, Monash University, where I characterised the ligand binding and signalling profiles of relaxin peptides at the human and mouse relaxin-3 receptors. 

I undertook postdoctoral research with Professor Michel Bouvier at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, University of Montreal, Canada from 2008 to 2012. This work involved developing intracellular signalling fingerprints for clinically used drugs targeting the β2-adrenergic receptors to better understand the links between intracellular signalling pathways and drug adverse effects, resulting in several publications in Mol Pharmacol, Nature Chem Biol and Nature Comms. This work was recently recognized as I was awarded the 2022 Early Career Researcher Award from the Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 

From 2013-2022, I undertook postdoctoral research with Professor Arthur Christopoulos at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Here I worked within a multidisciplinary team to develop and test novel allosteric modulators targeting the M1 and M4 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, for the treatment of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. 

I moved to SVI in 2023, to develop and characterise new drug candidates for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with Professor Michael Parker. 

Key achievements

2022  Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Early Career Researcher (<10 years) Award 

2011 – 2019  NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship 


2008 – 2012  Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship; Canadian Hypertension Society Postdoctoral Fellowship Top-Up; Fonds du Recherche du Quebec Postdoctoral Fellowship; Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship 

 2008  Young Investigator Award. 5th International Conference on Relaxin 

 2007  Best Oral Presentation Award at Molecular Pharmacology of GPCRs Conference 

 2006  Graduate Student Travel Award, ASCEPT 

 2004  Young Investigator Award. 4th International Conference on Relaxin 

 2004 – 2008  NHMRC Dora Lush Scholarship

Selected publications

McDonald JK*, van der Westhuizen ET*, Pham V, Thompson G, Felder CC, Paul SM, Thal DM, Christopoulos A, Valant C. Biased Profile of Xanomeline at the Recombinant Human M4 Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor.  ACS Chem Neurosci.2022 Apr 20;13(8):1206-1218. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.1c00827. Epub 2022 Apr 5. *Co-first authors 

van der Westhuizen ET, Choy KHC, Valant C, McKenzie-Nickson S, Bradley SJ, Tobin AB, Sexton PM, Christopoulos A. Fine Tuning Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor Signaling Through Allostery and Bias.  Front Pharmacol. 2021 Jan 29;11:606656. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.606656 

Jörg M*, van der Westhuizen ET*, Khajehali E, Burger WAC, White JM, Choy KHC, Tobin AB, Sexton PM, Valant C, Capuano B, Christopoulos A, Scammells PJ. 6-Phenylpyrimidin-4-ones as Positive Allosteric Modulators at the M1mAChR: The Determinants of Allosteric Activity.

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2019 Mar 20;10(3):1099-1114. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00613. *Co-first authors 


Masureel M, Zou Y, Picard LP, van der Westhuizen E, Mahoney JP, Rodrigues JPGLM, Mildorf TJ, Dror RO, Shaw DE, Bouvier M, Pardon E, Steyaert J, Sunahara RK, Weis WI, Zhang C, Kobilka BK. Structural insights into binding specificity, efficacy and bias of a β2AR partial agonist.  Nat Chem Biol. 2018 Nov;14(11):1059-1066. doi: 10.1038/s41589-018-0145-x 

van der Westhuizen ET, Spathis A, Khajehali E, Jörg M, Mistry SN, Capuano B, Tobin AB, Sexton PM, Scammells PJ, Valant C, Christopoulos A. Assessment of the Molecular Mechanisms of Action of Novel 4-Phenylpyridine-2-One and 6-Phenylpyrimidin-4-One Allosteric Modulators at the M1 Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptors.  Mol Pharmacol. 2018 Jul;94(1):770-783. doi: 10.1124/mol.118.111633 

van der Westhuizen ET, Breton B, Christopoulos A, Bouvier M. Quantification of ligand bias for clinically relevant β2-adrenergic receptor ligands: implications for drug taxonomy.  Mol Pharmacol. 2014 Mar;85(3):492-509. doi: 10.1124/mol.113.088880