I am delighted to inform you that Professor John McGrath has been awarded the very prestigious John Cade Fellowship in Mental Health Research in recognition of his ground-breaking research demonstrating that low exposure to vitamin D in early life is a causative factor in schizophrenia. The Fellowship is named after Dr John Cade AM (1912-1980), an Australian psychiatrist working after World War II, who discovered the effectiveness of lithium as a treatment for bipolar disorder. The $3.75 million awarded to Professor McGrath over five years will allow him to continue to build national leadership and capacity in this area and QBI is enormously excited that John and his colleagues have been honoured in this way. 

In addition, Associate Professor Naomi Wray’s work into discovering the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia has been another highlight in this area with the publication of a recent paper in Nature Genetics showing, using a new method of genetic analysis, that a quarter of the risk of developing schizophrenia can be traced to genetic variations that are common in the general population and not due to changes in a single gene.

This edition coincides also with the tenth anniversary of our first philanthropic donation made by the Maclean family to support our research into motor neuron disease. This act of generosity led to the establishment of the Ross Maclean Senior Research Fellowship and the Maclean family has continued to support QBI ever since, pioneering a culture of giving at QBI, that has resulted in over $16 million in philanthropic donations during this time. Jeff Maclean continues to oversee our endeavours as Chairman of the QBI Development Board. I am extremely indebted and thankful to Jeff and his family for their wonderful support and friendship over the past 10 years. 

Philanthropy has become even more central to QBI’s success, because competitive grants are increasingly failing to fully fund the costs of the research and the shortfall must be found elsewhere. In essence, every dollar received from the granting bodies requires another dollar in matching funds. Nevertheless, thanks to the generous support of our donors our work continues to flourish, and this month I am delighted to announce two new fellowships funded by philanthropy: the Peter Hilton Research Fellowship in Ageing Dementia and the Queensland Freemasons Senior Research Fellowship in Learning and Memory, supported by UQ’s Endorsment Fund.

The marriage of dedicated researchers with our generous donors continues to power our discoveries and keep QBI at the forefront of brain research. 

I thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to sharing our latest research findings with you again soon.

Professor Perry Bartlett FAA

Directors Message Spring 2013 section

Profile Dr Victor Anggono

Profile Dr Victor Anggono

Image : Premier Campbell Newman congratulates Professor Perry Bartlett after unveiling the official plaque

Dr Victor Anggono completed his Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in pharmacology, at the University of New South Wales.  

He then began his PhD in 2003 with Professor Phil Robinson at the Children’s Medical Research Institute, University of Sydney. There he studied the role of phosphorylation of the protein dynamin I in synaptic vesicle endocytosis – an important mechanism, whereby a nerve cell recaptures and reuses membranes that have fused with the plasma membrane to release neurotransmitters, allowing cells to signal to one another. 

During his PhD, Dr Anggono discovered the protein syndapin was an essential partner to dynamin in regulating this process. His discoveries in this area resulted in a number of first-authored publications, including one in Nature Neuroscience

In 2007, supported by an International Human Frontiers Science Program Long-Term Fellowship and an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship, Dr Anggono undertook postdoctoral work at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore under the mentorship of Professor Richard Huganir to study the trafficking of neurotransmitter receptors and its implication in synaptic plasticity, learning and memory.

In 2011, Dr Anggono was awarded an Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Boomerang Award, which provides an expatriate biochemist or molecular biologist with the opportunity to return to Australia to present his or her work at a prestigious conference and give seminars at universities and research institutes around the country. It was Dr Anggono’s presentation at QBI as part of this award that resulted in his recruitment to the Institute. 

Dr Anggono officially joined QBI in March 2012 as a research fellow to begin establishing an independent research group in what is now the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR). He and his team are primarily interested in dissecting out the cellular signalling pathways that control the release of neurotransmitters from presynaptic neurons and the trafficking of neurotransmitter receptors on postsynaptic neurons. 

Such research is important not only to improve our understanding of the fundamental biological process of synaptic transmission that controls synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, but it may also provide novel insights into the development of better ways to overcome synaptic dysfunctions that are responsible for the cognitive decline in dementia.