veski innovation fellow
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Dr Vihandha Wickramasinghe was awarded a 3-year veski innovation fellowship in In March 2017.
Dr Wickramasinghe returned from the University of Cambridge to take up his position leading the RNA Biology and Cancer Laboratory at the prestigious Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Project title: Targeting the mRNA processing machinery in cancer
Dr Wickramasinghe’s paradigm-shifting research focuses on understanding the fundamental biology of gene expression and how it is altered in the development of cancer cells. His goal is to find new ways to intervene when normal quality control processes within the cell go awry.
At the world class Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Dr Wickramasinghe leads the RNA Biology and Cancer Laboratory where he investigates the molecular basis of how mRNA is selectively processed and exported from the nucleus into the cytoplasm and its emerging links to cancer.
Vihandha’s research will use state of the art genomic, molecular and cell biological approaches developed during his time at the University of Cambridge with some of the most renowned experts in molecular biology and cancer research, Professor Ron Laskey, FRS, CBE, FMedSci, and Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, FMedSci.
Enabled by the veski innovation fellowship, Vihandha’s expertise in molecular biology establishes a new field of research in RNA Biology, based in Victoria. The Wickramasinghe laboratory provides a new platform to enhance the knowledge economy in Victoria through the attraction and training of promising cell biologists and translational researchers.
One of Vihandha’s key projects, researching the mechanisms of regulating gene expression via selective messenger RNA (mRNA) is seen as a critical step in the gene expression pathway, which is altered in cancer. Through this research, Vihandha and his team have demonstrated that mRNA export is not constitutive, but is highly selective and can regulate distinct biological processes through poorly understood mechanisms.
His second project is researching the effect of alternative mRNA splicing on the human proteome, which has emerged as a key mechanism for enabling biological complexity within the human genome. However, the extent to which this increased genomic complexity contributes to the generation of proteomic diversity is largely unknown. Vihandha and his team have identified this fundamental biological question as one of critical importance to human health, given the recent identification of perturbed RNA splicing as causative factor in cancer.