Dr Martin Whitham

Group Leader - Myokine Biology

Martin completed his Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Sports Science at the University of Glasgow before completing his PhD at the University of Birmingham, UK in 2002. This led to an early career in academia at the University of Wales, Bangor, where he held a tenured appointment as Lecturer in Exercise Physiology.

A sabbatical at the BakerIDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne in 2007 with Professor Mark Febbraio paved the way for a career change into medical research, and Martin took up a Senior Research Officer position at BakerIDI in 2009. Not straying too far away from exercise research, Martin’s early interests in the Febbraio laboratory were on Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and the concept of the Myokine – a protein or peptide produced and secreted by skeletal muscle to carry out endocrine functions.

After carrying out extensive investigations on the transcriptional regulation of muscle derived IL-6, Martin commenced an ARC discovery grant funded program with the aim of screening contracting skeletal muscle for novel myokine candidates, to better understand the profound benefits of physical activity on metabolic health.

Following a move to Garvan in August 2015 along with Professor Febbraio, Martin was appointed Group Leader of the Myokine Biology group in the Diabetes and Metabolism Division. The goals of this group are to continue investigating the role of skeletal muscle secreted proteins in mediating metabolic health in exercise and disease state contexts.

Research Interests

Exercise Physiology
Insulin resistance


2002 - PhD, University of Birmingham - UK
1999 - BSc (Hons), University of Glasgow - UK

Selected Publications

Whitham, M., Febbraio, M.A. The ever expanding myokinome: discovery challenges and therapeutic implications. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 15: 719-729 (2016)

Henstridge, D. C.*, Whitham, M*. & Febbraio, M. A. Chaperoning to the metabolic party: The emerging therapeutic role of heat-shock proteins in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Molecular Metabolism 3, 781–93 (2014)

Pal, M., Febbraio, M. A. & Whitham, M. From cytokine to myokine: the emerging role of interleukin-6 in metabolic regulation. Immunology and Cell Biology 92,331-339  (2014).

Kraakman, M.J, Allen, T.L, Whitham, M, Iliades, P, Kammoun, H.L, Estevez, E, Lancaster, G.I, Febbraio, M.A (2013) Targeting gp130 to prevent inflammation and promote insulin action. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism 15(suppl 3) 170-175

Whitham, M.*, Chan, M.H.S*, Pal, M, Matthews, V.B, Prelovsek, O, Lunke, S, El-Osta, A, Broenneke, H, Alber, J, Bruning, J.C, Wunderlich, F.T, Lancaster, G.I & Febbraio, M.A (2012) Contraction induced IL-6 gene transcription in skeletal muscle is regulated by c-jun terminal kinase/Activator protein-1. Journal of Biological Chemistry  287 10771-10779. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.310581 

Allen, T.L., Whitham, M. & Febbraio, M.A (2012) IL-6 muscles in on the gut and pancreas to enhance insulin secretion. Cell Metabolism 15(1) 8-9

Hansen, J., Brandt, C., Nielsen, A.R., Hojman, P., Whitham, M., Febbraio, M.A, Pedersen, B.K., and Plomgaard, P. (2011) Exercise induces a marked increase in plasma follistatin: evidence that follistatin is a contraction-induced hepatokine. Endocrinology 152(1), 164-71

Fortes, M.B. & Whitham, M. (2011) Salivary Hsp72 does not track exercise stress and caffeine stimulated plasma Hsp72 responses in humans. Cell Stress & Chaperones 16(3):345-52

Fortes, M.B. & Whitham, M. (2009) No endogenous circadian rhythm in resting plasma Hsp72 concentration in humans. Cell Stress and Chaperones (2009) 14(3): 273

Whitham, M. & Fortes, M.B. (2008) Heat shock protein 72 : Release and biological significance during exercise. Frontiers in Bioscience 13: 1328-39

Laing, S.J, Jackson, A.R, Walters, R, Lloyd-Jones, E, Whitham, M Maassen, N and Walsh, N.P (2008) Human blood neutrophil responses to prolonged exercise with and without a thermal clamp. Journal of Applied Physiology 104(1), 20-26.

Whitham, M., Laing, S.L., Jackson, A., Maassen, N., & Walsh, N.P. (2007) Effect of exercise with and without a thermal clamp on the plasma heat shock protein 72 response. Journal of Applied Physiology 103(4),1251-56.

Whitham, M. & McKinney, J. (2007) Effect of a carbohydrate mouthwash on running time trial performance Journal of Sports Sciences 25(12),1385-92.

Whitham, M. & Fortes, M. (2006) Effect of blood handling on extracellular heat shock protein 72 concentration following high intensity exercise in humans. Cell stress and chaperones 11 (4), 304-308

Whitham, M, Walker, G.J, & Bishop, N.C (2006) Effect of caffeine supplementation on the extracellular heat shock protein 72 response to exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 101: 1222-1227

Walsh, NP, & Whitham M (2006) Exercising in extreme environments: A greater threat to immune function? Sports Medicine 36(11) 941-976

Dr Martin Whitham