News / 20 September 2020

New funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) will boost the development of novel genomic tools at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) and EMBL Australia.

EMBL Australia group leader Dr Harald Janovjak, who is based at ARMI, was recently awarded a prestigious ARC Future Fellowship.

This will provide $810,000 over four years to support his group’s work in developing novel genetic methods and instrumentation for the local, rapid and reversible activation of genes in isolated cells and in mice.

“I am most grateful to be awarded this fellowship,” Dr Janovjak said.

“It is exciting to be supported by the Australian government and the scientific community to pursue this project.

“We intend to provide first-of-its-kind technologies, leading to not only enhanced knowledge, but also multidisciplinary training opportunities, from biology to engineering. And, as with our previous work, technologies with potential applications on a global scale.”

The project is set to generate highly innovative light and sound-based technologies that will enable the manipulation of living systems at the gene level with unprecedented precision.

With his world-leading expertise in optogenetics, this project is a natural evolution - the next step in expanding the scientist's toolkit.

“Specificity and speed - these are issues that have plagued scientists when it comes to manipulating the genome experimentally,” Dr Janovjak said.

“If we can have greater control over when to express or suppress a gene, both temporally and spatially, we would be able to create better models to study development and the effect of dysfunctions.”

As such, this research could pave the way in the future towards more accurate disease modelling, enabling scientists from around the world to accelerate their research and the search for new therapeutics to treat disorders that are linked to genetic aberrations, such as degeneration or cancer.

ARC Future Fellowships are awarded to mid-career researchers with the specific aim to grow knowledge and foster innovation for the benefit of the Australian and international community.

The fellowship scheme is highly competitive, with only 100 grants awarded across the country this year, equating to a 14.5% success rate.

With candidate projects judged on a range of criteria, from investigator capability to project quality and innovation, this fellowship recognises the excellent, high-quality research from Dr Janovjak and his group.

Congratulations, Harald!