The Centenary Institute has officially launched its newest initiative, ‘The David Richmond Laboratory for Cardiovascular Development: Gene Regulation and Editing’ headed up by Associate Professor Mathias Francois (pictured).
A/Prof Francois and his team will be focused on identifying new and innovative therapeutic approaches targeting vascular disease (any abnormal condition relating to arteries, capillaries, veins and lymphatic vessels). Abnormalities in the growth and development of these vessels are associated with human disorders including cardiovascular illness, solid cancer metastasis and inflammatory diseases.
With many of these diseases and disorders having a genetic cause, the team will be looking to determine the molecular events that direct and influence the construction of the ‘vascular tree’ (the network of blood and lymph vessels throughout the body). The aim will be the identification of molecular targets to which novel therapeutics can be first assessed and then generated.
The main focus of the research program will revolve around the biology of a class of protein known as transcription factors (TFs). These proteins act as molecular switches or as the control panel of the genome to turn on and off genetic pathways which drive vascular development.
Until recently TFs were labelled as “undruggable” but recent technology advances have opened up new research directions to efficiently manipulate these targets pharmacologically. The long term goal is to design new treatments that fine-tune gene expression to improve the management of vascular disorders.
Undertaking a highly strategic methodology to this activity, the new laboratory’s research program will be multi-disciplinary in nature, encompassing developmental biology, disease model systems, complemented by biophysics and genomics approaches.
“I’m extremely excited to be joining such a well-regarded and thriving organisation as the Centenary Institute,” says A/Prof Francois. “The appeal of this institution is in the versatility of the research capabilities provided by such world-class scientists.”
“Working in a new research environment with new colleagues from complementary research fields will mean new ideas and more opportunities to think out of the box. This process is critical to translate knowledge generated from discovery science to more applied vascular research, which hopefully will lead into meaningful treatments that have the potential to change lives,” he says.