UOW academic awarded $650,740 for molecular imaging research

UOW academic awarded $650,740 for molecular imaging research

Biophysicist Lisanne Spenkelink‘s project will develop new biomolecules to improve medical treatments

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has just announced this year’s round of awards, with almost half a billion dollars funding going towards most-promising health and medical research in Australia.

University of Wollongong (UOW) has celebrated an important win. Biophysicist Dr Lisanne Spenkelink from The School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience has been awarded an NHMRC Investigator Grant of $650,740 for the rapid evolution of a genome-editing tool. The project will be developed between 2022 and 2027 under mentorship from UOW’s Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen of Molecular Horizons, and with the support from The Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI).  

Dr Spenkelink’s academic work has focused on analysing complex biological systems through single-molecule visualisation techniques, mainly fluorescence microscopy. In her current research, she aims to improve CRISPR-Cas9, a unique technology enabling geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence.

As the most versatile and precise method of genetic manipulation, CRISPR-Cas9 was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2020. Since then, this technology has not only revolutionised basic science but also resulted in innovative crops management and successful clinical trials on animal models.

Dr Lisanne Spenkelink plans to update the current methods by developing a new evolution tool that helps to deliver more accurate results using biomolecular imaging. 

“Improving this technology will allow for wider and more reliable use of CRISPR technology for medical purposes, hopefully helping to develop new and ground-breaking medical treatments for diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Spenkelink.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt MP explained that the awards would help Australian researchers make life-changing discoveries.

“The grants include support for the next generation of research leaders seeking to develop more effective vaccines for respiratory diseases, investigate the missing genetics of rare diseases and help make the revolution in genomic medicine accessible and useful to everyone,” Minister Hunt said.

Main picture: Dr Lisanne Spenkelink