Leading scientist heads to LIMS (Issue 11, 2012)

Emma WhitelawProfessor 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 in early 2013, coinciding with the opening of the A$94 million institute at La Trobe University.

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

Professor Tim Brown, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, says ‘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,’ says Professor Hoogenraad.

Professor Whitelaw has played a significant role in developing the field of epigenetics, focussing particularly on how gene expression is controlled. Most recently she has focussed her attention on understanding the complex gene-environment interactions that cause diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and foetal alcohol syndrome.

This work has been funded through a A$4 million National Health and Medical Research Council Australia Fellowship, the holding of which is a mark of exceptional distinction. Currently, Professor Whitelaw is at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

She will continue with 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 the 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 A$64.1 million funding from the Federal Government to establish the A$97.9 million La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences (LIMS) on its Melbourne campus.