THE 2015 LEMBERG MEDAL: CHRISTINA MITCHELL
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Professor Christina Mitchell (MBBS, FRACP, FRCPA, PhD) is the Dean of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and Academic Vice-President at Monash University.
Christina trained as a physician scientist specialising in clinical haematology. She received her medical degree from the University of Melbourne and undertook specialist training in Haematology at The Alfred hospital, Melbourne. She graduated with a Fellowship from the Royal Australian College of Physicians and also a second Fellowship in Pathology. She obtained a PhD from Monash University and was awarded a National Heart Foundation Overseas Fellowship to undertake her postdoctoral studies at Washington University Medical School, St Louis, USA. Whilst in the USA, in Professor Philip Majerus’ laboratory, Christina purified from human platelets the first human inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase, INPP5B, and then contributed to the cloning of the enzyme. Upon her return to Australia to the Department of Medicine, Box Hill Hospital, she became an independent investigator and was instrumental in characterising the key catalytic activity and substrate specificity of this important family of enzymes. This work facilitated the cloning and characterisation (by her laboratory and others) of eight other family members as well as the delineation of their substrates and subcellular localisation. More recently, her laboratory discovered that one of the 4-phosphatase family members, INPP4B, functions as a tumour suppressor in breast cancer, where its loss occurs most frequently in aggressive basal-like subtype breast cancer and may therefore represent a breast cancer prognostic marker. In addition, her laboratory has also made contributions in the identification, with collaborators, that mutations in the LIM adaptor protein called FHL1 cause reducing body myopathy.
In 1999, she became Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University, where she was instrumental in restructuring the department and building research capacity. In 2006, Professor Mitchell became the Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at Monash University, which is one of the country’s most research-rich environments. She contributed to establishing three modern, world-class Biomedical Sciences precinct buildings which opened in 2011, providing space for 800 researchers and delivering a critical mass for medical research. In 2011, Christina was promoted to Dean of Medicine at Monash University and is the first woman to be appointed Dean of Medicine in any of the Group of Eight Universities in Australia. Professor Mitchell is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and in 2013, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Medical Science degree from the University of Melbourne.