Epigenetics leader feted with fellowship

Jose Polo

Award winning director of the Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics Professor Jose Polo has been recognised by his peers and elected into the Australian Academy of Science Fellowship.

Professor Polo joined the University of Adelaide in 2021 as the inaugural Director of the Adelaide Centre for Epigenetics (ACE) and Program leader of the South Australian Immunogenomics Cancer Institute (SAiGENCI).

Epigenetics is the study of how cells control which genes are read and used through epigenetic changes, these changes are unlike genetic changes as they do not change a DNA sequence and can be reversed.

Prior to his current role, Professor Polo was based at Monash University, establishing his independent research group in 2011 and still holding appointments to the departments of Anatomy and Developmental Biology and to the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute where he has a small research group

“I feel very honoured and happy as you have to be elected by your peers, so this is very validating,” he said.

Professor Polo’s work in epigenetics, reprogramming and cancer has been published in journals such as Nature, Cell, Nature Genetics, Cell Stem Cell and Nature Medicine among others as well as recognised with several awards including the Merit Award from the American Society of Haematology, the inaugural Metcalf Award, Victorian Young Tall Poppy Award, the Monash’s Vice-Chancellor award and the Presidential Medal of the Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology (ANZSCDB).

“So much has changed in the epigenetics field in the past 20 years, particularly with technology. This has allowed us to understand more, which continues to propel us forward and we come full circle."Professor Jose Polo, University of Adelaide

His work spans several fields, including nuclear reprogramming, developmental biology and cancer, where he has investigated from the mechanism underlying nuclear reprogramming to the development of models of the early human embryo as well as the role of the epigenome in the development of lymphoma and the potential of developing an anti-lymphoma therapy, bringing together reprogramming techniques to control cell identity into novel approaches to research into the treatment of prostate cancer.

“So much has changed in the epigenetics field in the past 20 years, particularly with technology. This has allowed us to understand more, which continues to propel us forward and we come full circle,” Professor Polo said.

“The fact we now have a centre of epigenetics and cell control means we can collaborate and work together to try and answer more difficult questions. We have a lot of talented people working in the field in Adelaide, so it is a very exciting time.”

In 2016, Professor Polo co-founded Mogrify Ltd to translate reprogramming technologies into therapies, receiving several accolades including the 2019 Scrip Innovation Award. He has also led research into interactions of cells of the placenta as well as the effects of COVID-19 in the placenta.

Professor Anton Middelberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research) at the University of Adelaide congratulated Professor Polo on his achievement.

“This recognition reflects his standing in the scientific community and the outstanding impact of his research in epigenetics,” he said.

“Professor Polo is a valued member of our community of world-leading academics.

“For him to be elected an AAS Fellow demonstrates this clear leadership enabled through a world-class research environment at the University of Adelaide.”

A not-for-profit organisation, the Australian Academy of Science champions, celebrates and supports excellence within Australia’s scientific community. A full list of fellows can be found on the Australian Academy of Science website.

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