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EMBL Australia growth, and changes in bioinformatics
Dear <<First Name>>

‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress’*1 – and not a truer word could be said about Australia’s agitation for medical research funding reform and the role of STEM in Australia’s knowledge-economy and public discourse.

A struggle it certainly is with a diminishing number of researchers securing funding from the NH&MRC falling to a record low: less than 12% of applications were successful this year. Yet with the release of the Australian budget in mid May, the proposed $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund provided a beacon on the hill for researchers across the nation.

EMBL Australia is not immune from this dialogue. The Federal budget confirmed further funding of $4 million for EMBL Australia within the $150 million allocation for NCRIS facilities. We await the result of the Review of Research Infrastructure by Mr. Phillip Marcus Clark AM due within weeks to determine what the future looks like for NCRIS. At EMBL Australia, our researchers and educators must maintain the challenge to demonstrate the value of our work to Australian society, to the health sector and to the economy that is vital to all our futures so that we can continue to deliver real progress.

As one door closes, another opens….
The Jackson Laboratory and succession at EMBL Australia

Speaking of progress, it is time for me to move to the next challenge in my scientific career. I have recently accepted the role of Scientific Director at The Jackson Laboratory in my home state of Maine. Although I have begun the transition towards my new post, I shall retain scientific leadership of EMBL Australia to ensure a smooth recruitment and handover process to my successor. 

EMBL Australia will remain one of the greatest leadership achievements of my career. I’m enormously proud of the deep and rich international networks we have built together in the past seven years. The confirmed funding for Australia’s Associate membership of the EMBL in the Federal Budget last month has reinforced my conviction that our current value and future potential has been recognized at the highest national level.

Thank you for your messages of support and celebration. I’m deeply grateful and touched by your generosity of spirit.

Best wishes,
Professor Nadia Rosenthal
Scientific Head, EMBL Australia
Please note that all replies to this newsletter go to

1. Frederick Douglass Speech, Emancipation Speech, New York City 1857

In this month's newsletter:

Nicolas Plachta moves to A*Star in Singapore

One of our first EMBL Group Leaders, appointed in 2011, Dr Nicholas Plachta will be leaving Australia to move to the Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) later this year in a new role as a Senior Principle Investigator leading his own research group.

Nicolas Plachta‘Being an EMBL Australia Group Leader has launched my career,’ he said. ‘I have had a fantastic experience at ARMI, driving my research in ways I didn’t think possible.’ Dr Plachta said one of the highlights of his time in Australia was receiving the Senior Medical Research Fellowship from the Silvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation Fellowship last year.

By developing novel imaging techniques, Nicolas has provided new insights into how cells and molecules interact during the very early stages of life. There’s no doubt that his findings have set the stage for new research in his field, and provides a model for EMBL Australia’s influence on international science.

On behalf of us all Nico, we congratulate you on your efforts in Australia and wish you the best for your future in Singapore.

Welcoming new researchers and collaborators into the EMBL Australia fold

I was delighted to welcome Professor Thomas Preiss from ANU as an EMBL – Australia Collaborating Group Leader in April. Thomas is an EMBL Alumnus and the leader of the RNA Biology Group at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. His long standing collaboration with Mathias Hentze at EMBL in Heidelberg reinforces the international EMBL Australia network.

Associate Professor James Bourne of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University joins Prof Preiss as an EMBL - Australia Collaborating Group. James’ collaborative work with EMBL Monterotondo’s Prof Cornelius Gross and his laboratory has won them a prestigious shared grant from the European Research Council. 

Jobs with EMBL Australia

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) is currently recruiting for a new EMBL Australia group leader.

SAHMRI are looking for a researcher to lead an independent research group to investigate the general cell biological mechanisms underlying organelle biogenesis.

The University of New South Wales in Sydney is also searching for an EMBL Australia Group Leader. Based with Kat Gaus and working in single molecule science to develop novel conceptual and experimental approaches to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of fundamental cell biological and medical problems, this will be second EMBL Australia group leader for the University.

The Systems Biology Institute (SBI) Australia is also seeking a Director, a self-motivated internationally recognized academic in systems biology. This is an inaugural role leading the newly formed SBI Australia, the first international node of SBI Japan and an EMBL Australia initiative.

Further details are found at

3rd Annual EMBL Australia PhD Course in Perth, Western Australia

A cohort of 60 students will be attending the 3rd Annual EMBL Australia PhD Course at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth from 22nd June to 3rd July 2015.

Modeled on the annual pre-doc training course that is compulsory for first year students at EMBL, the two-week residential program for first and second PhD students is a wonderful accelerator opportunity, helping many young researchers set off on ‘the right foot’ in their research career

Completing the Pipeline: From Biology to Bioinformatics and Back Again. A Symposium hosted and developed by PhD’s for PhD’s

The annual EMBL Australia PhD symposium, organised by PhD students for PhD students, will be held at Bio21 in Melbourne 25-27 November.

An exciting and inspiring experience for young scientists embarking on careers in biological and medical sciences, the annual EMBL Australia PhD Symposium, featuring notable plenary speakers, is an excellent introduction to networking, presenting, poster presentations and conference management.

It’s the only conference of its kind in Australia, bringing together students associated with EMBL Australia from universities, institutes and hospitals into a collaborative learning environment.

The informal blackboard session and symposium dinner is an invaluable opportunity to grow personal networks across disciplines, organisations and states.

Carrying on from the success of the inaugural EMBL Australia PhD Symposium, held at the University of New South Wales in December 2014, the 2015 symposium will contribute towards the continuing development of a national inter-connected network of students and early career researchers in Australia.

The EMBL Australia PhD Symposium explores the current revolution in biological sciences, the integration of large-scale biology and computational approaches to answer our biological questions. The focus of this symposium will be on research that explores fundamental biological questions on a grander scale such as next-generation sequencing, mass spectrometry, lipidomic approaches and large cohort studies.

For updates follow EMBL Australia on Facebook and on Twitter and sign up to the EMBL Australia newsletter.

17th EMBL PhD Symposium in Heidelberg Germany 22-24 October 2015

The Symposium is an annual event, organised by second-year PhD students for first-year PhD students at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. It brings together fellow students from around the world, for a 3-day series of talks by leading experts but also by students themselves.

The theme this year is 'Just by chance? Randomness and Variability Shaping Biology'.

EMBL Australia can provide support for Australian PhD students to attend this symposium. The EMBL Australia PhD Symposium grants are open to 10 Australian students in almost any field – biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, informatics, engineering and molecular medicine – who are currently enrolled in a PhD program at an Australian university, and have not yet submitted a thesis.

Applications are reviewed and ranked solely on the basis of qualification and scientific potential by the EMBL Australia Travel Grant selection committee.

The Symposium grants open on June 1st and close August 3rd 2015. Apply online at

Leadership in addressing Australia’s growing need for bioinformatics expertise and talent following new EMBL Australia agreement

New leadership of the EMBL Australia Bioinformatics Resource by the University of Melbourne has been officially announced, confirming local growing expertise and linking statewide life science computing infrastructure in Victoria to the rest of the nation.
Based at the Victorian Government-funded supercomputer facility, VLSCI, the EMBL Australia Bioinformatics Resource represents a significant opportunity to further advance bioinformatics expertise and network in support of broader biological sciences research and to reinforce links with the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute in the UK.
A/Prof. Andrew Lonie (Head, VLSCI’s Life Sciences Computation Centre) has been appointed as Interim Director. With the announcement Prof. James McCluskey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at The University of Melbourne noted, “At VLSCI, A/Prof. Lonie has proven to be an outstanding leader in bioinformatics research infrastructure, application and service. He will now draw together a range of collaborative partners to build Australia’s national bioinformatics networks and resources – crucial in this big-data era”.
Collaborators who will participate in this initiative includes the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, the Universities of Queensland, Sydney, Western Australia, Adelaide, and Tasmania, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Flinders University. They will provide local training and researcher support, plus bioinformatics tools and platform access, modeled on the successful services delivered at VLSCI over the past five years.
“ We will keep building upon the expertise, networks and assets that already exist to strive to meet the exponential growth in demand for bioinformatics skills. At the same time, we hope to play a greater role in developing tools and databases which will be sought after by collaborators across the world as this is the only way we will remain competitive in this field and continue to attract good students to want to work with us to mine the valuable biological data which exists here in Australia”, said A/Prof. Lonie.

Bio21 Institute hosts the 2015 EMBL Australia Showcase

Welcomed by Prof Paul Gleeson to the Bio21 Institute, the EMBL Australia Showcase in April created another unique opportunity particularly for about 100 early career researchers to learn, listen, tell and network with recognized senior local and international researchers from across EMBL Australia and the wider global EMBL landscape.
Speakers at this year’s event included Prof Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head of EMBL Australia, Prof Thomas Preiss and Assoc Prof James Bourne both new Adjunct Group Leaders (Faculty) to EMBL Australia and EMBL Alumnus Prof Michael Parker.


 ABACBS logo
The ABACBS Conference is being held on the 10-11 October hosted by the Garvan Institute for Medical Research in Sydney. For conference program details and registration

About EMBL Australia

EMBL - the European Molecular Biology Laboratory - is Europe's flagship for the life sciences. The Australian government joined EMBL as an Associate Member in 2008.

EMBL Australia is an unincorporated joint venture between members of the Group of Eight universities and the CSIRO, supported by the Australian government.

Read more about EMBL Australia
Copyright © 2015 EMBL Australia, All rights reserved.

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