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Dr Ivan Poon NHMRC Career Development Fellow, Biochemistry

In humans, billions of cells in various organs will die daily as part of a normal turnover as well as in pathological settings. During cell death, dying cells can disassemble into smaller fragments, a process that could facilitate their removal and to mediate communication with other healthy cells. Although the process of cell death has been widely studied over the last 40 years, Dr Poon has discovered a new biological process during cell death that controls how dying cells break apart into smaller pieces. Dr Poon’s research has defined (i) key aspects in the molecular machinery that regulate this newly described step of cell death, (ii) the importance of this process in disease settings, and (iii) identified novel drugs that target this process (Poon et al. 2014 Nature; Atkin-Smith et al. 2015 Nature Communications; Jiang et al. 2016 Nature Protocols; Good et al. 2018 Circulation Research). These important findings on why and how dying cells undergo such highly controlled form of cell fragmentation lay the foundations for the development of new treatments for diseases associated with cell death, including cardiovascular, autoimmune and infectious diseases.

Work generated from Dr Poon’s group has been recognised nationally and internationally, with his work being featured in ‘News & Views’ and ‘Research Highlight’ in journals including Nature, Nature Chemical Biology, Journal of General Physiology, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Circulation Research, and featured in >50 mainstream media including The Age, The Australian, South China Morning Post and The Guardian.

To support Dr Poon’s independent laboratory at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) in elucidating the mechanism and function of dying cell disassembly, Dr Poon was awarded a NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship, a NHMRC RD Wright Career Development Fellowship and a LIMS Hoogenraad Fellowship in Molecular Sciences. Dr Poon has also received a total of $1.43 million research funding as the leading Chief Investigator from NHMRC (Project Grant), ARC (Discovery Project), La Trobe University, as well as philanthropic funders. Dr Poon’s contribution to the scientific and wider community has also been recognised by a Peter Doherty Leading Light Award from the Australian Society for Medical Research, a La Trobe University Research Excellence Award, a Melbourne Protein Group Award Lecture, and a Victorian Young Tall Poppy Science Award from the Australian Institute of Policy & Science.

Dr Poon is a member of the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR), the Australasian Society for Immunology (ASI), the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), and the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV). Dr Poon is also an Editorial Board Member for Scientific Reports, and Lead Topic-Editor for Frontiers in Immunology.

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