2010 Merck Medallist:Andrew Hill

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Melbourne

Photo Credit: Gavin Blue

Andrew Hill is Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne. His laboratory studies the molecular and cellular biology of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and prion diseases.

Andrew graduated with a BSc(Hons) from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. He did his Honours project with Dr Bill Jordan and Dr Geoff Chambers, using DNA fingerprinting on sheep to identify potential disease biomarkers – and also paternity test spider monkeys at the local zoo. In 1992, he began working on prion diseases in the UK, firstly as a research assistant and subsequently studying for a PhD in Professor John Collinge’s group, which later became the MRC Prion Unit. This was an important time as the epidemic of BSE (‘mad-cow’ disease) was at its peak and the risks of this disease to human health were a major concern. During this time, Andrew researched the molecular properties of human and animal prion strains, and identified the link between BSE and a new form of prion disease in humans – variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) that emerged in 1996. This work led to a number of high profile publications in Nature and Science and to the development of a diagnostic and classification system for human prion diseases.

Andrew first came to Australia in 2000 as a Wellcome Trust Travelling Prize Research Fellow in Professor Colin Masters’ laboratory (University of Melbourne) where he expanded his research interests into other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. He returned to the UK for a short period as a Wellcome Senior Research Fellow before coming back to the University of Melbourne to establish his own laboratory within the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2003 upon the award of an NHMRC RD Wright Fellowship. Andrew’s laboratory was one of the first to move into the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute which opened in 2005. Andrew’s research team uses in vitro and in vivo models to look at how abnormal prion proteins travel from cell to cell and factors that affect prion infection. This work has extended into identifying similar pathways involved in the processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) involved in Alzheimer’s disease. His laboratory is also working on the basic biology of the prion protein and APP to understand their role in the disease process in more detail, with the goal of translating this into the design of novel therapeutic and diagnostic approaches for prion and Alzheimer’s diseases. Andrew has published over 80 publications, receiving over 5200 citations, and was editor of Prion Protein Protocols (Springer/Humana Press) published in 2008. He has received the ASBMB Edman Award and Victorian Young Tall Poppy Award.