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Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship awarded to Otago Biochemist

Friday 30 October 2020 10:18am

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Hearty congratulations to Dr Adam Middleton who has won a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship from the NZ Health Research Council.

This $600,000 fellowship will support Adam’s research for four years, and will help him to build his own research group. He plans to figure out details of how cells break down proteins, and use this knowledge to develop new therapeutics, particularly for neurodegenerative diseases.

Originally from Thunder Bay, in far-off Ontario, Canada, Adam completed his undergraduate and postgraduate study at Queen's University in Kingston, also in Ontario. There he was introduced to the world of protein structure and function in the laboratory of Professor Peter Davies, where he studied the proteins that stop plants from freezing.

The community of protein structural biologists around the world is a tight-knit one, and Adam learned about a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Professor Catherine Day, here at Otago through his supervisor’s friendships with protein biologists in the Otago Biochemistry Department.

Enticed by both the expertise and facilities available at Otago, and the outdoor lifestyle available in Dunedin, he travelled here with his wife and very young daughter. Another child and nearly eight years later, they have made Dunedin their home.

Adam’s latest fellowship is a reflection of the hard work he has put into his research, and his dedication to finding out how complex protein systems in cells work by studying the functions and structures of the proteins involved.

He is particularly interested in the ubiquitin-proteasome system, the most common way that cells break down proteins, used to control precisely-timed processes such as the cell cycle, and get rid of misfolded proteins. ‘Ubiquitin conjugating enzymes’ are the key way that cells label proteins to be broken down using this system.

Adam will be investigating how to control specific ubiquitin conjugating enzymes and will also work closely with Associate Professor Stephanie Hughes on the role of these enzymes in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease.

You can find out more about Adam's research and recent University of Otago HRC funding awards here:
Dr Adam Middleton's research profile
Otago health careers development boosted by $2.7 million

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Dr Adam Middleton explaining a model of a ubiquitin protein complex.