February 2019

Welcome to the first EMBL Australia 
newsletter for 2019

James Whisstock
EMBL Australia Scientific Head
The Partner Laboratory Network is looking forward to another busy year, with many great opportunities available for both researchers and students. 

I’d like to officially welcome our newest Group Leaders, Richard Morris from UNSW and Michelle Boyle from QIMR.  Eduardo Eyras will also join the PLN this year.  He will be based at ANU, and we look forward to him bringing his expertise in computational biology.  I’m thrilled to welcome these three outstanding researchers.  

Following an Australian delegation visit to EMBL in Heidelberg last year, Kyung-Min Noh from EMBL, Heidelberg and Chen Davidovich from EMBL Australia, were awarded a collaborative grant to study how genes are regulated at the molecular level. Co-led by the two Group Leaders, the new study will determine how chemical modifications in histone proteins control gene expression during normal development or in disease.

I’d like to also congratulate Max Cryle and Chen Davidovich who were awarded grants from the ARC, and David Lynn and Chen Davidovich who received project grants from the NHMRC.  David Lynn was also presented with the 2018 Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society Mid-Career Researcher Award at the national conference in Melbourne.  

I’m looking forward to the annual two-week PhD course which will be held at the University of Tasmania in June/July, and the 6th EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium in November at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne. 

Throughout the year, a number of travel grants for PhD students to train at EMBL will be available.  There will also be opportunities for students to start their PhD degrees in EMBL Australia laboratories.  Keep an eye on our website and for our newsletters for details.

Peptide papers point to new ways of tackling bacteria 

A/Prof Max Cryle and a team of researchers, have solved a critical 20-year peptide mystery, which will help scientists design new and effective antibiotics in the future.

Read more

Group Leaders, David Lynn and Chen Davidovich were recently awarded project grants from the NHMRC.  

David received the grant for his work on vaccine responses in infants, and Chen for his work on gene regulation.

Read more

Over 140 students attended the 5th annual EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium (EAPS) 

Prominent scientists delivered inspiring presentations, students learnt about career progression, and networked.

Read more

Homeward Bound: the network of women changing the world

EMBL Australia PhD course participant, Hana Starobova, was selected into the global leadership program, Homeward Bound, where she travels to Antarctica at the end of the year.

Barry Thompson 

Dr Barry Thompson joined the Partner Laboratory Network as a Group Leader last year.   He uses Drosophila and mice to explore how cells construct epithelial tissues during development, and how epithelial tumours arise

Read his profile below

ARC grant success for two EMBL Australia Group Leaders

Group Leaders, A/Prof Max Cryle and A/Prof Chen Davidovich have been awarded grants in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding. 

Supporting the application and development of optogenetics in academia and industry

OptogeneticsAustralia promotes collaborations by connecting research groups, and with an upcoming meeting.

Read more

Job opportunities

Postdoc position: Molecular and Cell Biology (Monash University - Chen Davidovich lab)

Postdoctoral Researcher in Immunology (SAHMRI - David Lynn lab)

Research Officer/Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioinformatics/Computational Biology (SAHMRI - David Lynn lab)
See more opportunities

Student opportunities

Applications for travel grants to train at one of EMBL’s six European facilities, go to a conference or take a short course, will open in early 2019.  Keep an eye out for details.

The 2019 EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium (EAPS)Models to Systems – Deciphering Biological Complexity, will be held on 27–29 November at Melbourne's Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Upcoming events

EMBL Australia’s two-week PhD course will be held in Tasmania from 24 June to 5 July.  Details will be available soon.  


Beeson JG, Kurtovic L, Dobano C, Opi DH, Chan JA, Feng G, Good MF, Reiling L, Boyle MJ: Challenges and strategies for developing highly efficacious and long-lasting malaria vaccines, Science Translational Medicine, 2019 Jan, 11 (474).

Chan JA, Boyle MJ, Reiling L, Moore K, Lin Z, Hasang W, Avril M, Manning L, Mueller I, Laman M, Davis T, Smith JD, Rogerson SJ, Simpson JA, Fowkes FJI, Beeson JG: Antibody targets on the surface of P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes that are associated with immunity to severe malaria in young children, Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2018 Oct.

Khadake J., Meldal B., Panni S., Thorneycroft D., van Roey K., Abbani S., Salwinski L., Pellegrini M., Iannuccelli M., Licata L., Cesareni G., Roechert B., Bridge A., Ammari M. G., McCarthy F., Broackes-Carter F., Campbell N. H., Melidoni A. N., Rodriguez-Lopez M., Lovering R. C., Jagannathan S., Chen C., Lynn D. J., Ricard-Blum S., Mahadevan U., Raghunath A., del Toro N., Duesbury M., Koch M., Perfetto L., Shrivastava A., Ochoa D., Wagih O., Pinero J., Kotlyar M., Pastrello C., Beltrao P., Furlong L., Jurisica I., Hermjakob H., Orchard S., Porras P (2019) Capturing variation impact on molecular interactions in the IMEx Consortium mutations data set.  Nature Communications. 10 (2019).

Loughland JR, Woodberry T, Boyle MJ, Tipping PE, Piera KA, Amante FH, Kenangalem E, Price RN, Engwerda CR, Anstey NM, McCarthy JS, Minigo G: Plasmodium falciparum activates CD16+ dendritic cells to produce TNF and IL-10 in subpatent malaria. Journal of Infectious Diseases, Sept 2018.

Oyong D, Kenangalem E, Poespoprodjo JR, Beeson JG, Anstey NM, Price R, Boyle MJ: Loss of complement regulatory proteins on uninfected but not infected red blood cells in P. vivaxand P. falciparum malaria, JCI Insight2018, Nov 15;3(22),

Quesnel-Vallières, M., Weatheritt, R.J., Cordes, S.P., and Blencowe, B.J. (2019). Autism spectrum disorder: insights into convergent mechanisms from transcriptomics. Nat. Rev. Genet. 20, 51–63. (PMID:30390048).

Barry Thompson

Dr Barry Thompson joined our Partner Laboratory Network as a Group Leader last year.   He uses Drosophila and mice to explore how cells construct epithelial tissues during development and how epithelial tumours arise.
Read his profile on the EMBL Australia website.
What are your scientific interests?
My lab explores how epithelial stem cells maintain tissue homeostasis, regenerate after tissue damage, and form carcinomas.  We use genetic manipulation of Drosophila, mouse, and human epithelial organoids to investigate mechanisms of epithelial cell polarity and proliferation control. 

Ultimately, we wish to understand how the size and shape of different tissues is encoded in the genome, and how genetic mutations lead to cancer.  We also have a strong interest in drug discovery, via high-throughput screening of small molecule libraries, with the aim of identifying novel agents for regenerative medicine and cancer therapy.

Name one tool you can’t do without. 
CRISPR knockins and knockouts.  We use this approach in all our model systems: fly, mouse and human cells.

What are your goals for your group?
In the beginning, we needed to apply for NHMRC and ARC funding, set up the lab, and start recruiting people to join us.  All of these are already in process.  Once up and running, we want to go after big questions in stem cell and cancer biology, and translate our findings into the clinic.
Which unresolved question would you most like to answer?
Recently, we have been interested in the Crumbs (CRB) family of cell polarity determinants, which localise apically in epithelial cells to direct cell polarity and also to regulate signal transduction via the Hippo-YAP signalling pathway. 

How Crumbs proteins localise to one pole of the cell is still unsolved.  During progression to carcinoma, Crumbs is lost from the apical domain just as tumour cells begin to lose their epithelial morphology and become malignant, but we still don’t know why these events happen and whether they might cause activation of YAP to drive tumour cell proliferation, invasion, and resistance to chemotherapy.  The implication is that YAP may be an important drug target in almost all advanced human carcinomas. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
As a PhD student at the MRC-LMB in Cambridge, Peter Lawrence (a famous Drosophila researcher) would ask us, “What’s your big question?  What is it that you really want to know?”  It’s a great question to ask young scientists, because we are trained to solve problems defined by others, whereas becoming an independent scientist means learning to define your own scientific problem – which then guides everything else you do.
Please forward our quarterly newsletter to colleagues who may like to keep up-to-date with EMBL Australia events, news and opportunities throughout the year.
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