Professor Ma-Li Wong


Phone: 08 8128 4709



M.D., 1982

M.D. School of Medicine, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

Residency - Internal Medicine Medical Center, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Fellowship - Neurophysiology, Kennedy Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, USA

Residency - Psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, USA

Residency - Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health Intramural Research Program, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Chief Resident - National Center for Schizophrenia Research, Yale University Department of Psychiatry and West Haven VAMC, West Haven, Connecticut, USA



In addition to her role as Senior Principal Research Fellow and Head, Pharmacogenomics Research Program, Mind & Brain Theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Professor Ma-Li Wong is Strategic Professor of Psychiatry, Flinders University.

Professor Wong was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Brazil, and lived for over 25 years in the United States, where she had clinical and research training in psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NIH, and Yale University. Professor Wong is recognised internationally as a leader in research in the biology of depression and antidepressant drugs. She has conducted depression research for over 20 years at Yale, NIH (unit chief), UCLA (tenured professor and Pharmacogenomics Center co-director), University of Miami (Vice Chair of Psychiatry), and ANU. She is Associate Editor, Molecular Psychiatry, Nature Publishing Group (Impact Factor: 14.897, number 1 worldwide) and has co-edited two books: Pharmacogenomics: The Search for Individualized Therapeutics (2002) and Biology of Depression: From Novel Insights to Therapeutic Strategies (2005). 

Research interests

The overall thrust of Professor Wong’s research is to unravel the biology of major depression. The fundamental biology of depression involves central alterations of neuropeptides and cytokines in limbic system circuits that cause not only depressed mood, but also regulate the response to stress, body weight, endocrine rhythms and immune function.

She has collaborated with her husband Julio Licinio for 2 decades. They have pioneered studies that identified the expression of several cytokine genes in the brain (Nature Medicine 1996;2:581-4). She also studies the interface between major depression and obesity, focusing on neuroendocrine and neuroimmune interactions, metabolism and metabolic syndrome.

In her research she has developed integrated clinical and translational studies that have examined the neurobiology and regulation of a central cascade of inflammatory mediators and stress peptides. She has conducted clinical and pre-clinical studies and she has authored and co-authored several publications in the fields of neuroendocrinology, neuroimmunology, molecular biology, pharmacogenomics and genetics.

Current Competitive Funding

Professor Wong is currently funded in the areas of psychiatric genetics and neuropsychopharmacology from three granting bodies.

  • NHMRC Project Grant APP1070935: “Long-term metabolic effects of stress and antidepressants: a novel translational paradigm of drug-induced obesity.” Principle Investigator A Prof Ma-Li Wong.
  • NHMRC Project Grant APP1051931 : “AusGBD-Depression: An Australian genetic database study of functional genetic variants and environmental factors in major depression.” Principle Investigator A Prof Ma-Li Wong.
  • Flinders University Faculty of Medicine, Establishment Grant “A novel treatment approach to obesity.” Principle Investigator A Prof Ma-Li Wong.
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