News / 30 October 2023

EMBL Australia group leaders Associate Professor Richard Morris, Associate Professor Yann Gambin & Dr Qi Zhang have each been awarded Discovery Project grants, totalling almost $1.7m collectively.

Associate Professor Richard Morris (based at the University of New South Wales) and his collaborators were awarded $624,710 over three years to investigate how HIV subverts the defences of the cell’s nucleus.

Associate Professor Yann Gambin (also based at the University of New South Wales) and his collaborators were awarded $526,047 over three years to investigate the molecular origins of the “supra-immunity” of bats.

Dr Qi Zhang – who is currently part of the Davidovich Group at Monash University and will start her own EMBL Australia laboratory at the South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Centre (SAiGENCI) in December – was awarded $544,187 over three years to advance her research on gene regulation.

See more details about the funded projects below.

Outcomes of the highly competitive Australian Research Council (ARC) grants, which will fund 421 research projects commencing in 2024, were announced yesterday. Only 16 per cent of the grant applications were successful.

Congratulations to Richard, Qi and Yann, as well as Australian EMBL Partnership Laboratory Heads Professor Peter Currie (Monash University) and Associate Professor Till Boecking (the University of New South Wales), who were also each awarded Discovery Project grants for their respective research.

ARC Chief Executive Officer Ms Judi Zielke PSM said $220.2 million of funding will enable research across a broad range of fields, including developing accessible playgrounds for children with vision impairment, understanding the risk of microplastics in Australian agricultural soils, and preventing the loss of sensitive data in the Australian community by malware.

Richard morris

Investigators: Dr Richard Morris; Dr David Jacques; Professor Halim Kusumaatmaja; Dr Anton Le Brun; Dr Anthony Duff

Project summary: Access to the cell’s nucleus, and hence its genome, is of deep scientific and commercial significance. It is controlled by a phase-separated diffusion barrier within the nuclear pore complex. Recent evidence, however, has shown that HIV can cross this barrier with its protective capsid intact, despite it being over one thousand times larger than the limit for passive transport. Combining concepts from soft-matter physics with recombinant assays, this project aims to uncover the link between the unique geometry of HIV capsids and their ability to subvert the nucleus’ defenses. The expected outcome is a step-change in the understanding of nuclear access control, with downstream benefits to virology, bio-engineering and bio-technology.

Total project funding: $624,710


Investigators: Associate Professor Yann Gambin; Professor Bostjan Kobe; Associate Professor Emma Sierecki

Project summary: Supra-molecular protein complexes known as signalosomes drive our innate immune response by forming large signaling hubs capable of recruiting downstream effectors. This project aims to compare the properties and structure of human and bat signalosomes and discover the molecular origins of the “supra-immunity” of bats. In this context, the project expects to generate new knowledge concerning the fundamental molecular mechanisms that regulate the signalosomes. The intended outcome is to answer the long-standing question of control of speed and amplitude of innate immune response at the molecular level. Both locally and internationally, this new approach should provide benefits across structural biology, molecular evolution and biotechnology.

Total project funding: $526,047

qi zhang

Investigators: Dr Qi Zhang

Project summary: Polycomb repressive complexes (PRCs) and the rixosome are evolutionarily conserved enzymes that are required for silencing the developmental genes of multicellular organisms. This project aims to investigate how these key regulators maintain gene repression using cutting-edge approaches ranging from biochemistry, structural biology, cell biology to genomics. The expected outcomes include generating new knowledge in gene regulation, strengthening the research capabilities of Australia in fundamental biology, and training the next generation of scientists.

Total project funding: $544,187


A full list of funded projects is available here.   

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