NHMRC Investigator Grants for Garvan researchers

The NHMRC Investigator Grant Scheme will provide $8.5 million in funding to researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research over the next five years, in recognition of their outstanding track records in research.

From left to right: Dr Deborah Burnett, Dr Ira Deveson, Dr Qian Du, Prof Stuart Tangye and A/Prof Joseph Powell

02 September 2019

The inaugural round of the Investigator Grant Scheme combines five year fellowships and project costs. The highly competitive Investigator Grants acknowledge what the applicants have achieved, their publication record and the impact their research has already had.

Professor Marie Dziadek, Garvan’s Chief Scientific Officer, said “Garvan has a long standing reputation for exceptional science and impactful research outcomes. We’re thrilled about the calibre of our researchers awarded Investigator Grants.”

Grant recipients and their projects:

Professor Stuart Tangye – Leadership level 3 (Theme Leader, Immunity and Inflammation)

Publishing over 180 peer-reviewed research articles and invited reviews, Stu Tangye is recognised as an international expert in human immunology and mechanisms underlying genetic human immune diseases such a primary immunodeficiencies. With a passion driving him towards cell biology and immune deficiencies, Stu and his team are currently investigating how lymphocytes integrate signals to become effector cells, and how genetic variants compromise these differentiation programs to cause immune disease such as severe infection, autoimmunity or allergy. By amplifying or weakening the human effector cells, these findings could lead to new treatment outcomes for patients with these conditions.

Associate Professor Joseph Powell –Leadership level 1 (Head – Garvan Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics – Lab Head, Single Cell and Computational Genomics, Cancer)

Cutting-edge cellular genomics technology has the ability to transform our understanding of health and disease, and Joseph Powell is at the heart of this field. Joseph and his team have pioneered the use of single cell sequencing methods and statistical genetics to understand the genetic control of disease and cell development. Joseph has contributed to many scientific breakthroughs through the use of large-scale single-cell and DNA datasets and multidisciplinary collaboration. His lab focuses on demonstrating the genomic mechanisms by which loci contribute to complex human disease to provide early stage diagnostics and identification of new, personalised treatment options.

Dr Ira Deveson – Emerging Leadership level 2 (funded by MRFF) (Senior Research Officer – Transcriptomic Research, Genomics and Epigenetics)

Next-generation sequencing can identify genetic mutations that cause disease, and has become a principle tool in biomedical research and diagnostics. Ira Deveson and his team have developed a novel framework for the design and manufacture of DNA reference standards for sequencing, referred to as ‘sequins’. This intuitive technology has been used to better map and analyse complexity within the genome and has proven to be a critical asset for the clinical interpretation of genomics data. Ira’s work has already significantly impacted the way we bring genomics into the clinic.

Dr Qian Du – Emerging Leadership level 1 (Research Officer – Epigenetics Research, Genomics and Epigenetics)

Qian Du has been intrigued by the direct relationship between alterations in the cancer epigenome and genome, as they remain largely unknown. Qian’s work has investigated nuclear organisation and DNA replication timing epigenome analysis in both normal and prostate cancer cells. The analysis of cancer genomes revealed that late-replicating DNA is prone to cis and early-replicating DNA to trans chromosomal rearrangements. This research has the potential to demonstrate the clinical relevance of epigenetic change and how alterations drive the nature of chromosomal rearrangements in prostate cancer.

Dr Deborah Burnett – Emerging Leadership level 1 (Research Officer – Immunogenomics, Immunity and Inflammation)

Debbie Burnett and her collaborators have investigated how a population of cells in the immune system – which are usually ‘silenced’ because they can harm the body – can provide crucial protection against invading microbes. Far from remaining silent, the cells can be rapidly ‘redeemed’ ­– and then activated to produce antibodies – when the body is faced with a disease threat that other immune cells cannot tackle. In the process of ‘redemption’, each cell rapidly acquires changes to the antibody gene it carries. Together, the changes mean that the cells can produce antibodies that no longer threaten the body – but instead become highly potent weapons to fight disease. These findings may lead to a greater understanding disease and reshape global vaccine development strategies.