The 2014 Merck Millipore Research Medal: Aleksandra Filipovska

School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Perkins Institute for Medical Research
University of Western Australia

Aleksandra Filipovska is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Aleksandra received her BSc (Hons) and PhD in 1998 and 2002, respectively, from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Throughout her career Aleksandra has focused on mitochondria – the powerhouses of eukaryotic cells that produce most of the energy required for life. Mitochondrial dysfunction can cause or contribute to a variety of human diseases as well as ageing.

During her graduate studies, Aleksandra became interested in the mechanisms governing mitochondrial gene expression and how mutations in genes encoding mitochondrial proteins lead to disease. In her doctoral studies, she developed different approaches for the manipulation of mitochondrail DNA replication and expression as potential new therapies for mitochondrial diseases. In 2003, she was awarded a New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Fellowship to carry out her postdoctoral work at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Here she focused on the study of mitochondrial dysfunction in ageing and disease and the use of mitochondria-targeted compounds to alleviate the burden of oxidative stress in the cell.

Aleksandra was awarded an NHMRC Howard Florey Fellowship that enabled her to relocate to Australia in 2006 and establish her research group at the University of Western Australia. She focused her research interests on the study of proteins that regulate mitochondrial gene expression and how mitochondrial dysfunction causes disease. She has continued her efforts to target mitochondrial dysfunction using small molecules through the award of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant and a Future Fellowship as well as Project Grants from the NHMRC.

Aleksandra has published over 50 articles in internationally recognised journals, holds two current patents and actively contributes to scientific societies, training students, peer review and community engagement. Her research efforts to date have been recognised with the award of several prizes such as the Australian Academy of Sciences Ruth Stephens Gani Medal, ANZSCDB Young Investigator award and the WA Tall Poppy Award. Her current research focuses on the regulation of mitochondrial gene expression by RNA-binding proteins and the development therapeutics for inherited mitochondrial diseases. In addition, her research group uses functional genomics to identify and characterise pathogenic mutations in mitochondrial genes that cause disease.