THE 2020 SHIMADZU RESEARCH MEDAL: COLIN JACKSON
Research School of Chemistry
Australian National University
Professor Colin Jackson heads the Chemical and Structural Biology Laboratory at the Research School of Chemistry (RSC), Australian National University. He is also the Associate Director of Research of the RSC.
Colin’s graduate studies with Professor David Ollis defined the mechanistic basis for phosphate ester hydrolysis in a number of enzymes and was the beginning of an interest in the link between protein structural dynamics and function (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2009). His PhD was awarded in 2007. He subsequently accepted a team leader position at the CSIRO after a short postdoctoral fellowship, where he worked with Dr John Oakeshott on the evolution of enzymes involved in insecticide resistance (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2013). After being awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship, Colin then trained with Professor Martin Weik, an expert in kinetic crystallography, at the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, France, and Professor Dan Tawfik, a pioneer in the field of protein evolution, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Colin returned to Australia and was appointed an RSC lab head in 2011. Colin’s laboratory investigates the molecular and dynamic basis for protein function, protein evolution and protein engineering. Research highlights include: (1) mapping the changes in protein conformational landscapes during the evolution of new function (Nature Chemical Biology, 2016); (2) the engineering of a novel glycine sensor to follow neurotransmitter release in real-time (Nature Chemical Biology, 2018); (3) using ancestral protein reconstruction to recapitulate the emergence of enzymatic activity from a non-catalytic scaffold (Nature Chemical Biology, 2018); (4) revealing that the suboptimal activity of a designed enzyme originates from frequent sampling of non-catalytic states (Nature Communications, 2018); and (5) overcoming insecticide resistance through the development of a new class of inhibitors (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2019). These compounds are currently under a commercialisation agreement.
Colin has published over 100 articles in top journals such as Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Immunology, Nature Communications, eLife and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. He is the recipient of a 2011 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, 2012 HFSP Young Investigator Award, 2014 ARC Future Fellowship, 2014 Tall Poppy and Act Tall Poppy of the Year, 2015 ACT Scientist of the Year and 2015 RACI Rennie Memorial Medal.