veski innovation fellow
Dr Ross Dickins returned from Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York to take up a position within the molecular medicine division of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Dr Dickins was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in February 2009.
Modelling cancer therapy using RNA interference
Research project description:
Many drugs act by inhibiting the activity of particular proteins. By experimentally harnessing the recently described natural process known as RNA interference (RNAi), the team has developed technology that allows them to quickly inhibit production of specific proteins while leaving others unaltered. This system can acutely ‘switch off’ protein production in cells and genetically engineered animal models of human disease, thus mimicking drug action. The research aims to establish this technology in Victoria, improve its user-friendliness, and disseminate the resulting components and knowledge to academic and commercial collaborators in a range of biomedical fields.
More specifically the research hopes to use this technology to accelerate cancer drug discovery. Traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy kill tumor cells and normal cells, causing significant side effects. An emerging class of therapeutic agents (known as targeted therapies) inhibit proteins required for the survival of tumor cells but not normal cells. Using inducible RNAi to inhibit specific genes/proteins in established mouse tumours, Ross can model likely effects of different targeted therapies in a high-throughput manner. Because this genetic approach reveals the likely consequences of protein inhibition while initially avoiding the need for expensive and time-consuming drug development, he anticipates it will speed the development of effective, targeted cancer therapies.
- In 2010, Ross was awarded a $1 million Viertel Foundation Fellowship
- Completed his tertiary education at Melbourne University and his PhD at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
- His groundbreaking work on RNA interference (RNAi) has been published in several top scientific journals including Nature Genetics in 2005 and 2007