Renowned Perkins researcher appointed International Scholar

One of Australia’s leading scientists has been chosen alongside 40 researchers from 16 countries to receive a prestigious international scholarship that will fund his research.

Ryan ListerProfessor Ryan Lister, who heads the Perkins Epigenetics and Genomics Laboratory, has been appointed as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) International Research Scholar.

HHMI is an eminent science foundation based in Maryland USA, dedicated to advancing biomedical research by investing in scientific thought leaders, emerging research pioneers and students who aspire to be tomorrow’s scientific innovators. In its program to develop scientific talent worldwide, HHMI partners with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Professor Lister is recognised for conducting ground-breaking work in mapping the epigenome, the millions of chemical tags added to the DNA of genomes in various locations that can control whether nearby genes are turned on or off.

Professor Lister said the $650,000 USD award, provided over five years, delivers strong long-term funding to support a range of new research programs in his laboratory.

“This award allows us to conduct longer-term research projects that can be more challenging to undertake in conventional shorter-term grant funding cycles, and it provides us with the flexibility to explore new ideas and research directions.”

The chemical tags that comprise the epigenome play important roles in regulating how the information encoded in the DNA sequence of the genome is used by a cell. Professor Lister’s research sheds light on the patterns and roles of these epigenome tags, which are critical for cellular function and the growth of humans, animals and plants.

“If you were to imagine the DNA as a musical instrument, the epigenome would be the sheet music that dictates which notes of the instrument are played,” Professor Lister said

Professor Lister is inventing new tools to precisely edit these epigenome tags, in order to understand their function and use them to regulate genome activity. He is also exploring their role in neuronal function and brain development, which could offer new insights into neurological disorders.

”I’m thrilled to be appointed an HHMI International Research Scholar, and extremely grateful for the generous support that the award provides.

“This award will enable my lab to pursue a range of new research projects aimed at understanding and manipulating the epigenome in health and disease states. Furthermore, it will provide new opportunities to interact and collaborate with other HHMI scientists from around the world,” Professor Lister said.

Professor Lister has previously been awarded some of Australia’s highest scientific honours including the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (2014 – Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science), the Ruth Stephens Gani Medal for Distinguished Research in Human Genetics (2014 – Australian Academy of Science) and the 2015 Metcalf Prize, from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, in recognition of his leadership in stem cell research.

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