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Health Research Council funding success at Otago

Two GO members Associate Professor Christopher Brown (Department of Biochemistry) and Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee (Department of Pathology) have been named as the only Otago University academics to receive Health Research Council Explorer Grants.

Associate Professor Christopher Brown
Department of Biochemistry
Explorer Grant

There is an urgent need for replacements for antibiotics. During evolution bacterial viruses have evolved to manipulate or destroy specific human pathogens. There are huge and rapidly increasing numbers of sequences from bacterial viruses in the public domain, but this wealth of data has not been able to be fully utilised. We believe that it has now become possible to mine this data for new antibiotics. In preliminary studies we have identified thousands of potential anti-bacterials – the difficulty is choosing the best ones. To select these we propose to develop novel computer methods to predict their hosts, biophysical, functional, and expression properties. If successful, this research will provide proof of principle by discovering and testing pre-clinically new anti-bacterials. It will open up a novel and flexible computational approach to transform antibiotic discovery.

Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee
Department of Pathology
Explorer Grant

Although about 90% of cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the underlying molecular events that drive it are poorly understood. This limited understanding hinders the development of effective cancer treatments. Initially thought to be driven by genetic mutations, our work indicates that epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation may be responsible for driving metastasis. Until recently it has not been possible to directly demonstrate that specific methylation changes alter metastatic potential. However, the development of precision editing tools now provides an opportunity to specifically edit epigenetic states target genes and to exclusively investigate the effect of these changes on cancer cell function. Our proposed research will further develop CRISPR/Cas technology to enable high-throughput interrogation of epigenetic drivers of metastasis. We aim to demonstrate that epigenetic mechanisms drive metastasis. This will open new avenues for understanding metastasis biology, lead to better outcome prediction, and identify new therapeutic targets to treat metastatic cancers.

The full Otago University recipient list for HRC grants can be read here.


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