Panos Ioannou Young Investigator Award

This named Young Investigator Award was established in 2005 to celebrate the life, commitment and passion of Professor Panos Ioannou (1951-2005). Panos was a founding member of the Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society (AGCTS) who dedicated his career to developing novel therapies for thalassaemia and other inherited neurological and metabolic diseases. A renowned global leader in molecular biology and genetics, his ground-breaking research continues today through the many young researchers he trained. His colleague and mentor, Professor Bob Williamson says “Panos was irrepressible. He would get knocked down and bounce right back up. He was the most positive person I have ever met. His glass was always more than half full, it was full to the brim and overflowing”.

The Panos Ioannou Young Investigator Award is announced at the biennial AGCTS Conference. At the closing session prizes are awarded to student members in recognition of their excellence in research and communication. Postdoctoral fellows within 6 years of PhD graduation who are presenting an abstract and hold current AGCTS membership are eligible to apply. Career disruptions will be considered and women are encouraged to apply. Winners will be featured on this page and invited to write for the AGCTS blog and newsletter. Congratulations to all!

I feel very honoured to receive the 2022 Panos Ioannou Young Investigator award for my presentation on targeted gene editing in the bone compartment. After obtaining my BMedSci (Hons) at the University of Sydney in 2018, I fostered my interest in gene therapy by pursuing a PhD in the Bioengineering & Molecular Medicine Lab under supervision by A/Prof Aaron Schindeler. This focused on designing and generating tissue-specific adeno-associated vectors for distinct musculoskeletal tissues. I am continuing to pursue gene therapy in my postdoctoral fellowship, expanding to include the treatment of Neurofibromatosis type 1/ 2. I would like to extend my thanks the AGCTS committee for providing such a wonderful platform to present and learn more about the gene and cell therapy field.

I was delighted to be the recipient of the 2019 Panos Ioannou Young Investigator award for my presentation on therapeutic modulation of modifier genes in genetic diseases. My PhD research focused on the development of novel antisense oligonucleotides for spinal muscular atrophy and retinitis pigmentosa 11, using the approach of targeting modifiers of gene expression. Innovations from my PhD research contributed to the development of a molecule to treat an inherited retinopathy that is currently undergoing early phase commercialisation and is the flagship drug of PYC Therapeutics (Perth, Australia). Currently, I am developing RNA-based drugs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, particularly to manipulate autophagy and reduce protein toxicity in motor neurons. A big thank you to the AGCTS committee for this award, the prize money will allow me to attend the 2020 ALS/MND symposium in Montreal.

I am very grateful for being honoured with the Panos Ioannou Young Investigator Award. I am looking forward to presenting my research at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Gene and Cell Therapy this year and also meet other investigators in the field. First, I want to thank the AGCTS Executive Committee for giving me this opportunity. Moreover, I am grateful to my supervisor Ian Alexander for giving me the chance to be part of such an exciting project. Ultimately, to work in a challenging and interesting project is one of the best ways to stay motivated. Also, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Gene Therapy Research Unit at the Children’s Medical Research Institute for all the support during my PhD, especially to my associate supervisors Samantha Ginn and Claus Hallwirth. Without their guidance this wouldn’t have been possible.

Chantelle McIntyre recently completed her PhD thesis at The University of Adelaide and is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Adelaide Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Research group. She presented her PhD project which developed lentiviral gene therapy for the metabolic disorder Sanfilippo Syndrome.

It was a great honour and privilege to receive the Panos Ioannou Young Investigator Award. I would like to thank the AGTS Executive Committee for their support and also my supervisor Professor Ian Alexander for encouraging me to present my work at this years conference. The prize money was used for travel costs to the Japan Society of Gene Therapy 19th Annual Meeting in Okayama, Japan: “From the talks which were presented at both the AGTS and JSGT meetings, I felt that this was an exciting time for the gene therapy field as there was a strong focus on translation of pre-clinical research and the recent outcomes in various clinical trials. I had always hoped to undertake a post doctoral position in Japan and this trip allowed me to share my work with the Japanese gene therapy community and also to meet scientists and clinicians who also focus on liver-targeted gene transfer. This was a valuable and timely networking experience, as I found out during this time that I had also been awarded the JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship for Foreign Researchers. I will therefore be undertaking a postdoctoral position at the University of Tokyo at the end of this year. I would like to thank the AGTS for helping to develop my research career and look forward to sharing my work again at future meetings.”

I extend my sincere thanks to all members of the AGTS Executive Committee (and the society as a whole) for welcoming me into the membership so warmly. To receive the Panos Ioannou Young Investigator Award is a great honour and privilege that was most unexpected. Focussing on the lipid oxidative stress response in lower eukaryotes, I obtained my PhD from the University of New South Wales. From 1999 to 2007, I gained extensive postdoctoral experience in the USA. At the University of Utah I characterised proteins involved in iron and zinc homeostasis. In 2001 I accepted a fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee where I demonstrated improved lentiviral vector safety upon incorporation of an insulator. In 2008, I returned to my native Australia to join the Bruce Lefroy Centre for Genetic Health Research at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI). I have initiated two novel projects focused on identifying unique regulatory factors and developing potential diagnostic markers and therapies for the neurological disorder Friedreich ataxia. My passion for gene therapy of Friedreich ataxia is akin to Prof. Ioannous own work and I have heard many anecdotal stories of his time here at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Several of his fellows are now staunch colleagues and I have very much enjoyed our collaborations! It is my hope to live-up to Prof. Ioannous high standards and that of the Australasian Gene Therapy Society. To have the support of this close, cohesive group is invaluable and something I will treasure professionally and personally. Marguerite Evans-Galea, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Since completing my PhD, I have applied my research-based skills to the field of gene therapy and was one of the first researchers in Australia to utilise lentiviral vectors for gene transfer protocols. I was a key member of the team involved in treating an infant with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency at The Childrens Hospital at Westmead, an Australian biomedical first. Here, I characterised the molecular basis for the disease and analysed patient samples following gene therapy. I have a strong research focus in the field of gene therapy and am interested in targeting the bone marrow to treat immunodeficiency diseases. My work has been recognised by the Society, being awarded the Panos Ioannou Young Investigator award in 2007. This enabled me to travel to Edinburgh for the 2008 British Society of Gene Therapy meeting as part of a reciprocal exchange. I extend my sincere thanks to the Executive and am truly grateful for the opportunity to present at the British meeting. In 2009, I became the Secretary for the Australasian Gene Therapy Society.

Young Investigator

Dominic J. Glover is originally from Queensland. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in biochemistry from the Queensland University of Technology in 2001. His honours thesis was performed in the laboratory of Prof Martin Lavin at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, which involved the characterization of radiation-inducible promoters for application in targeted gene therapy. For his honours thesis he was awarded a QUT Deans Award for Excellence. He then joined the Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University to carry out his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Prof David Jans. Dominics doctoral thesis is focused on developing novel non-viral vectors that mimic the ability of viruses to be actively transported to and maintained in the cell nucleus. “I was very honoured to receive the Panos Ioannou Young Investigator Award. The prize money will be used for travel costs to the 2005 Sir Mark Oliphant BioNano conference at the University of Queensland in late 2005.”

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