Cell death researcher Professor David Vaux elected to EMBO
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher and deputy director Professor David Vaux has been made a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO); the only Australian this year to be elected.
Professor Vaux was one of 55 researchers to be elected to EMBO, which recognises contributions to life science research. Professor Vaux is a world leader in the field of cell death research.
In the 1980s, Professor Vaux made the landmark discovery that the Bcl2 gene, which had been implicated in blood cancer development, was a ‘pro-survival’ gene that prevented cells from dying.
This discovery had major implications, giving the first molecular insights into the process of programmed cell death (otherwise known as apoptosis). It also caused a seismic shift in our understanding of cancer development, showing that mutations in the genes that control cell death could drive cancer development.
Professor Vaux’s findings launched the field of programmed cell death (apoptosis) research, which has led to the development of novel anti-cancer agents such as BH3-mimetics, which promote death of cancer cells by targeting these ‘pro-survival’ proteins.
Since then, Professor Vaux has continued to work in the field, and his later work includes identifying the ‘inhibitor of apoptosis’ (IAP) proteins in mammals, which are also involved in the programmed cell death pathway. He and his colleagues also discovered several proteins that are key regulators of IAPs, which led to the development of another class of anti-cancer agents called Smac-mimetics.
Professor Vaux said he was delighted to be elected a member of EMBO.
“It is an honour to be recognised and elected to an organisation that has so many talented and eminent scientists as members,” Professor Vaux said.
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said it was wonderful to see Professor Vaux recognised by the international body.
“David has made discoveries that have had a profound effect on our understanding of cell death and cancer, and is a very deserving recipient of this honour,” Professor Hilton said.
EMBO annually elects new members, the majority of which are elected from Europe and neighbouring countries. Professor Vaux is one of seven researchers from outside Europe elected, including researchers from the US, Argentina and South Korea.
The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) promotes excellence in molecular life sciences in Europe by recognising and fostering talented scientists. Since 1964, more than 1550 leading scientists have been elected to become EMBO members.
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