John A McKenzie / Selby Scientific Foundation Awards 2017

  • The Foundation established an additional award in 2005 at the University of Melbourne to be presented at the faculty of Science annual Dean’s Awards function. Named the John A McKenzie / Selby Scientific Foundation Award it provides continuing recognition of Professor McKenzie’s seven years of distinguished service as Dean of the Faculty.

    Awarded to a student who has completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Biomedicine, and is pursuing one of the following: a research training program in the Master of Science, the Postgraduate Diploma in Science or the final year of the degree of Bachelor of Science with honours or Bachelor of Biomedicine with honours, in the Department of Genetics.

    The Foundation congratulates this year's award winner:

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  • Alexander Walsh

    BioSciences
    University of Melbourne
    Awarded on 01/01/2017

    I commenced my Honours year in 2017 at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health under the supervision of Michele Binder and Dr. Alexandra Harvey. My project is focused on the gene MERTK and its role in the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a very common cause of neurological disability in young adults, affecting over 2 million people worldwide. The disease is characterised by the continual degeneration of the protective myelin sheath that encapsulates and protects the axons of nerve cells. The cause of onset in MS remains unknown and currently there is no cure.

    The MERTK gene encodes a receptor protein that plays an essential role in immunoregulation and homeostasis in the central nervous system (CNS) and its dysregulation has been explicitly linked to the pathogenesis of MS. Genomic studies have shown that specific variation within this gene can dramatically increase susceptibility to developing MS and MERTK is now listed as an official MS risk gene.

    My project aims to characterise and understand how genetic variation within MERTK is affecting MS susceptibility and the important biological roles that it regulates in the CNS. Gaining knowledge of these mechanisms may be an important first step into uncovering MERTK's therapeutic potential. 

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