Cancer researcher’s leading new role at SAiGENCI

Photo of Dr Qi Zhang

Dr Qi Zhang is the first EMBL Australia group leader to be hosted at SAiGENCI.

A world-leading researcher is bringing their cutting-edge cancer expertise and search for better treatments to South Australia.

Dr Qi Zhang is the first European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Australia group leader to be hosted at the South Australian immunoGENomics Cancer Institute (SAiGENCI).

Dr Zhang will lead a group of researchers within the Cancer Epigenetics Program with a joint appointment in Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics (ACE), which is headed up by Professor Jose Polo.

Dr Zhang – who has flourished as a postdoctoral researcher at Monash University in the lab of EMBL Australia group leader Associate Professor Chen Davidovich since 2016 – is excited to establish her new lab at SAiGENCI as an EMBL Australia group leader and continue working towards improving cancer treatments.

“The outstanding infrastructure and resources offered by SAiGENCI and EMBL Australia enable me to pursue my research interests, with a focus on addressing some of the most fundamental questions in epigenetics,” Dr Zhang said.

“Specifically, I aim to study the mechanisms underlying gene activation and repression, as well as how these processes become dysregulated in various diseases.

“My ultimate and ambitious goal is to translate the foundational lab-based research discoveries into novel therapeutic approaches for cancer treatments.”

“My ultimate and ambitious goal is to translate the foundational lab-based research discoveries into novel therapeutic approaches for cancer treatments.” Dr Qi Zhang, EMBL Australia Group Leader, SAiGENCI, University of Adelaide.

Dr Zhang has a longstanding interest in the structure and function of epigenetic modifiers.

Epigenetics modifiers influence DNA and the proteins associated with DNA by causing chemical changes, which can turn genes on or off without changing the DNA sequence itself.

“Think of them as acting like traffic lights that control the flow of gene activity. The consequence of a malfunction in this ‘traffic light’ control is human disease like cancer. Understanding how these traffic lights work is essential for developing new cancer therapies,” said Dr Zhang.

SAiGENCI Director Professor Christopher Sweeney said team members were delighted that Dr Zhang will be joining the institute.

“Dr Zhang is a key recruit as a group leader and her incredible science and dynamic energy will be a great asset for a new cancer research institute,” Professor Sweeney said.

Prior to joining the Davidovich Lab, Dr Zhang was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, studying gene regulation. She completed her PhD in 2013 at China Agricultural University, investigating the molecular mechanism of the regulation of a histone demethylase.

Dr Zhang held an ARC DECRA Fellowship (2018-2020) and is a recipient of the NHMRC EL1 Investigator Grant (2021-2025).

SAiGENCI officially joined the EMBL Australia Partner Laboratory Network earlier this year and Dr Zhang will be the institute’s first EMBL Australia fellow, commencing in December.

Tagged in news brief, SAiGENCI, cancer research, DNA, epigenetics, genes