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Researcher's drive receives top praise

A researcher’s drive to better understand how flexibility in human genes could cause damage, and in turn initiate cancers and dementias, has earnt top praise from the health industry’s peak governing body.

Dr Phillippa Taberlay (pictured), Senior Research Fellow at the Tasmanian School of Medicine within the College of Health and Medicine, was awarded the 2019 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award. 

The award recognises Dr Taberlay’s research achievements and a newly funded research proposal, with her application determined to be the top-ranked by an Indigenous researcher in the Emerging Leadership category after receiving the highest score from the NHMRC grant review panels in 2019.

Dr Taberlay’s research focuses on understanding the role of epigenetics, which involves the chemical and physical modification of our genes, in both healthy ageing and in chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. 

In particular, the award recognises the work in her grant, Ageing matters: Chromatin remodelling in healthy ageing and disease, which looks at the limits of epigenome flexibility in healthy ageing and whether it can cause damage that drives cancers and dementias.

“It’s such a pleasant surprise and extremely humbling to be recognised by the NHMRC with this award,” Dr Taberlay said. 

“I’m so grateful to have had fantastic opportunities in my career, and to be working with such a supportive and encouraging team of researchers at the University,” Dr Taberlay said. 

Dr Taberlay grew up in Tasmania, with her family descending from the Pairrebeenne clan in far northeast of Trouwunna and from Promenalinah in Southern Tasmania. 

Dr Taberlay always wanted to pursue a career in science and was awarded her PhD in 2008. 

In just over a decade, her research has gone beyond local and national attention to receiving global recognition, being published in prominent international journals and securing numerous industry accolades. 

“I hope the award, and acknowledgement from industry, serve to act as a motivation for young, up-and-coming researchers,” Dr Taberlay said. 

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is the leading national body in health and medical research.

Dr Taberlay’s award is part of the NHMRC’s Research Excellence Awards, which celebrate leadership and outstanding contributions to the sector. 

About the award

The award is named to honour Professor Sandra Eades (FAHMS), who was the first Indigenous medical practitioner to be awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (2003). Professor Eades is a Noongar woman from Mount Barker, WA. Her research career has focussed on the epidemiology of Indigenous child health in Australia. Over the past 20 years, Prof Eades has made substantial contributions to Aboriginal health and has provided leadership at a national level in Aboriginal health research. This award is given to the top-ranked application by an Indigenous researcher in the Emerging Leadership category of Investigator Grants.

Published on: 12 Mar 2020 11:52am