Ryan Lister says the award will provide long-term funding to a range of new research programs aimed at understanding and manipulating the epigenome. Photo: Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research

$US650,000 scholarship for Perkins researcher

Wednesday, 24 May, 2017 - 15:07

Ryan Lister’s work in the epigenetics and genomics lab at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has received a boost in the form of $US650,000 from a prominent US-based institute.

Professor Lister was among 41 researchers from 16 countries to be named as international research scholars by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The Maryland-based HHMI is a science foundation dedicated to progressing biomedical research, and its newly introduced international program aims to develop scientific talent worldwide.

In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust (London) and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), HHMI’s program awards each appointed scholar $US650,000 over the course of five years.

Professor Lister said the award would deliver strong long-term funding to support a range of new research programs in his lab aimed at understanding and manipulating the epigenome in health and disease states.

“This award allows us to conduct longer-term research projects that can be more challenging to undertake in conventional shorter-term grant funding cycles, and it provides us with the flexibility to explore new ideas and research directions,” he said.

“Furthermore, it will provide new opportunities to interact and collaborate with other HHMI scientists from around the world.”

Professor Lister is known for his work in mapping the epigenome – the millions of chemical tags added to the DNA of genomes, in various locations that can control whether nearby genes are turned on or off.

His research has shed light on the patterns and roles of these epigenome tags, which are critical for cellular function and the growth of humans, animals and plants.

“If you were to imagine the DNA as a musical instrument, the epigenome would be the sheet music that dictates which notes of the instrument are played,” Professor Lister said.

Previously, Professor Lister has been recognised in some of Australia’s highest scientific honours, including: the life scientist of the year (2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science); the Ruth Stephens Gani medal for distinguished research in human genetics (2014 Australian Academy of Science); the 2015 Metcalf prize form the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, in acknowledgment of his leadership in stem cell research; and inclusion in the 2015 Knowledge Nation 100, a list of the country’s most influential visionaries, intellects and game changers.