Michael Lazarou

THE 2022 SHIMADZU RESEARCH MEDAL: MICHAEL LAZAROU

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University

Associate Professor Michael Lazarou heads a laboratory focused on autophagy and mitochondrial quality control within the Ubiquitin Signalling Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), and is co-affiliated with the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University.

Michael’s graduate studies with Professor Mike Ryan focused on the assembly of mitochondrial protein complexes and how they break down in energy generation disorders. He developed assembly models for complex I of the oxidative phosphorylation machinery and untangled the basis of complex I assembly defects in mitochondrial disease patients. He undertook his postdoctoral studies in 2010 with Professor Richard Youle at the National Institutes of Health, USA, with the support of an NIH/NINDS postdoctoral fellowship. Here, he focused on the Parkinson’s disease proteins PINK1 and Parkin and their role in maintaining mitochondrial health through mitophagy, a degradative pathway which culls damaged mitochondria. Michael’s work solved how the kinase PINK1 senses mitochondrial damage, and identified PINK1’s mitophagy-activating substrate, ubiquitin, while also providing critical insights into the mechanisms of Parkin’s enzymatic activity.

Michael was recruited to the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University in June 2014, where he established his laboratory, before moving to WEHI as a lab head in 2022. Michael’s lab uses multiple imaging modalities, including AI-directed volumetric electron microscopy, combined with gene editing and biochemistry to understand the intricate mechanisms of mitophagy and mitochondrial quality control. Michael’s research highlights include: solving how PINK1/Parkin mitophagy is initiated and understanding the downstream mechanisms of mitophagy involving the capture of damaged mitochondria within double membrane vesicles termed autophagosomes. His work has revealed “new paradigms for understanding the complicated mechanism that orchestrates autophagosome biogenesis” (Autophagy, 2021). He has published in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Developmental Cell, Molecular Cell, Journal of Cell Biology, Nature, Science and Nature Cell Biology.

Michael’s research has been supported by the NHMRC and ARC. He was the recipient of the 2013 ASBMB Boomerang Award and he held a 2017–2020 ARC Future Fellowship. He is a Council member and affiliate member of the NIH-funded Autophagy Inflammation and Metabolism Center (USA) and serves on the Editorial Board for Journal of Cell Biology 2022–2024. Michael supports the Parkinson’s disease community through philanthropic and community events.