2009 ASBMB Award: Laura Vella
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Melbourne
Laura Vella completed her Bachelor of Medical Science degree in 2000 and undertook an Honours project under the supervision of Associate Professor Johnson Mak at the Burnet Institute, where she investigated HIV assembly. She quickly realised she had a keen interest in the pathobiology of human disease and protein trafficking and commenced a PhD in 2004 under the supervision of Associate Professor Andrew Hill and Associate Professor Roberto Cappai in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Pathology at the University of Melbourne. Laura’s PhD research discovered a novel mechanism for the processing and trafficking of the infectious protein responsible for prion diseases. These findings have significantly improved current understanding of prion dissemination and prion protein processing and highlighted the potential of exosomes as a diagnostic target in neurodegenerative disease. The significance of Laura’s research is highlighted by five publications in journals such as the Journal of Pathology, two book chapters, travel awards, a poster prize and a best speaker award. Following thesis submission in 2008, Laura was awarded the Viertel Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship from Alzheimer’s Australia Research to investigate amyloid precursor protein metabolism. The ASBMB Fellowship will allow Laura to present her current findings at the 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease: Advances, Concepts and New Challenges, in Prague.