Professor Roger Pocock was awarded a 3-year veski innovation fellowship in
July 2015.

Professor Pocock received a veski innovation fellowship and a Biomedicine Discovery Fellowship to relocate his laboratory from Denmark to the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Monash University.

Research project: Deciphering the function of a schizophrenic-associated microRNA

Professor Pocock is interested in discovering how the human brain forms and how it functions. Using worms as a model, specifically the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, he injects them with a jellyfish protein with fluorescent properties. This allows his team to observe the worm nervous system in living animals.

Roger uses this model as a discovery tool to study the functions of genes in the brain. One such gene called mir-137 is associated with schizophrenia; however, the biological role of mir-137 in brain development and function is not understood.

He hopes this model will provide a better understanding of the cause of schizophrenia and eventually lead to the production of novel therapies for this debilitating disorder.

Schizophrenia affects around 200,000 Australians, and starts in late teenage years or early adulthood affecting all races and both sexes. Schizophrenia is known to run in families and mutations in certain genes is thought to be causative.

Roger will study a direct relative of mir-137, called mir-234, in the brain of the worms. The major product of his research program will be a better basic understanding of how mir-234 regulates brain development and function. This will hopefully enable researchers to ascertain how the human homolog mir-137 is associated with schizophrenia.

Roger has already initiated collaboration with a group within The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health working on mir-137 in mice, and will use this collaboration and Victorian industrial contacts to push his findings towards clinical translation.

Roger and his team are at a very fundamental stage, but industry collaboration using their research will hopefully lead to new drug targets in the future.

With the support of veski and Monash University, Roger has also been able to bring six members of his team from Denmark to continue their research alongside him in Melbourne.

We’re at the ground level trying to find out how various genes in the brain are working and we’re going to use that information with industry links in the future to hopefully identify drug targets.

Professor Roger Pocock