UWA graduate supports work of Nobel Prize winner

01 Dec 2020 | 2mins

A PhD graduate who has spent the past four years working as a postdoctoral fellow with a Nobel Prize winner will set up his own biomedical research laboratory at Monash University next year.

Dr Gavin Knott, who completed his PhD thesis at UWA in 2016 on Structural insights into DBHS protein dimerisation and nucleic acid binding, has been working as a postdoctoral fellow with biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Professor Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley.

Professor Doudna jointly won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year with Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, Germany.

The award was for their discovery of one of gene editing technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. The technology has been applied across life sciences and cancer therapies.

"My research is geared towards understanding how the molecular scissors at the heart of gene editing function, so that we can better apply and regulate them"

Dr Gavin Knott, Research Fellow at Monash University and University of California, Berkeley
Dr Gavin Knott




Since 2016, Dr Knott has been investigating how the CRISPR-Cas machinery targets nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA at a molecular level.

“My research is geared towards understanding how the molecular scissors at the heart of gene editing function, so that we can better apply and regulate them,” Dr Knott said.

“We have also been working as part of a consortium to use this technology to develop the next generation of diagnostics for rapid deployment against COVID-19.

“This Nobel Prize is a win for basic science. Jennifer and Emmanuelle pursued a basic biological question and the answer to that question triggered a biotechnological revolution that is changing the world.”

In 2019 Dr Knott won a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant administered by Monash University in Melbourne. He plans to move to Monash in 2021, where he will set up his own independent research laboratory as a Group Leader in the Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

UWA Warden of Convocation, Clinical Professor Lesley Cala, said it was wonderful to see talented UWA graduates such as Dr Knott involved in truly groundbreaking research on the global stage.

“I commend Dr Knott for having accomplished so much, so quickly, in his studies and research, winning a string of prestigious awards and scholarships along the way,” Professor Cala said.

“It is a real credit to his excellent research and determination that he won the NHMRC grant which landed him the opportunity to set up his own laboratory at Monash University.”

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