News / 6 September 2022

Two EMBL Australia group leaders who were recently awarded grants to embark on exciting new projects. 

A/Prof Robert Weatheritt was awarded an RNA Future Leaders grant to develop targeted drugs to fight obesity and Dr Senthil Arumugam was awarded a Team Science grant to further investigate cell size regulation.

Robert Weatheritt – RNA Future Leaders grant

A/Prof Robert Weatheritt, an EMBL Australia group leader based at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, was one of five recipients of a NSW Health early-mid career RNA Future Leaders grants, which totalled a collective $2.9 million investment in medical research and development.

A/Prof Weatheritt’s project, titled ‘Developing in Vivo CRISPR RNA Engineering to Prevent Diet-Induced Obesity’, uses the latest advances in RNA technology to develop targeted drugs to fight obesity. 

More than 60 per cent of Australians are overweight or obese (and more than 20 per cent of children in NSW), representing a major health risk and contributor to premature mortality in Australia. 

This project aims to take advantage of the recent revolution in RNA therapeutics to develop new drugs to tackle diet-induced obesity, in conjunction with healthy eating and exercise.  

A/Prof Weatheritt’s team will use state-of-the-art approaches, combining the most advanced CRISPR gene-editing approaches with the ability to quantify changes at the single cell level, to enable them to identify new targets in the fight against obesity. 

They aim to convert this technology into human therapies within five years.

Senthil Arumugam – Team Science grant

Dr Senthil Arumugam, an EMBL Australia group leader based at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, was part of a collaboration recently awarded a $1.8m Wellcome Trust India Alliance Team Science grant to further investigate cell size regulation.

Team Science grants fund teams of researchers who bring together complementary skills, knowledge and resources to address an important health challenge for India.

Led by Dr Thomas Pucadyil at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Pune, Dr Arumugam and his co-investigator, Dr Anand Srivastava, from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, the project is titled ‘Mechanistic analyses of EHD proteins in cellular physiology’.

The international and interdisciplinary team will investigate whether cells depend on the balance in endocytic and exocytic flux to regulate their size.  

The project summary is below: 

“Processes such as endocytosis, recycling and exocytosis determine membrane composition and, importantly, cell size. We know cells regulate their size, but how this is achieved is a fascinating question in cell biology. Cell size regulation has largely been understood from models linking growth with division but whether they also depend on the balance in endocytic and exocytic flux remains unclear. Here, we focus on a class of ATPases called EHD, which when knocked down contribute to an increase in cell size. EHDs are linked to recycling functions and we aim to decipher the mechanistic basis for exerting such control.”

Congratulations, Rob and Senthil!

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