World-leading scientist joins LIMS

Posted on May 24, 2012


Professor Whitelaw: probing how genes behave in different cells and different individuals.

Professor Emma Whitelaw, an internationally renowned molecular geneticist, has been appointed Director of the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences (LIMS).

She will take up her post early next year, coinciding with the opening of the $94 million Institute on La Trobe University’s Melbourne campus.

Professor Whitelaw will also take on the role of Head of Genetics in the School of Molecular Sciences and Director of Research.

Professor Tim Brown, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, said: ‘Professor Whitelaw will play a significant role in enabling La Trobe University to build on its exceptionally strong track record in biological science, as well as its pioneering practice of bringing together many different disciplines to work on big problems, including cancer, malaria and autoimmune diseases.’

Professor Nick Hoogenraad, Executive Director of LIMS, said that Professor Whitelaw, as a leader in the emerging field of epigenetics, would ensure that the Institute expands its research to cover the role of epigenetics in human diseases, especially cancer.

‘LIMS is intended to set the mould for the next generation of science in Australia, and Professor Whitelaw will greatly contribute to this ambition,’ he said.

Implications for obesity, heart disease and  diabetes

Professor Whitelaw has played a significant role in developing the field of epigenetics, focusing particularly on how gene expression is controlled.

Most recently she has concentrated on understanding the complex gene-environment interactions that cause diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and foetal alcohol syndrome.

The world-class La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences nearing completion on the Melbourne campus

This work has been funded by a $4 million National Health and Medical Research Council ‘Australia Fellowship’, the holding of which is a mark of of exceptional distinction. They are designed to attract and retain leading health and medical researchers in Australia.

Currently, Professor Whitelaw is at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

She will continue this research at LIMS. Her aim is to develop improved diagnostic tools that estimate disease risk as well as identify new targets for drug discovery, since there is increasing evidence that epigenetic changes that lead to disease development can be reversed by drug treatment.

Professor Whitelaw is a member of the Australian Academy of Sciences.

About the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences

The La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences, due to open in early 2013, will be a world-class facility for molecular science, biotechnology and nanotechnology research and research training. La Trobe University received $64.1 million funding from the Federal Government to establish the $94 million La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences (LIMS) on its Melbourne campus in the city’s north.

See also: New institute reaches out to the world