2003 Applied Biosystems Edman Award: Gary Leong

LeongI am a physician-scientist having completed my clinical training as a paediatrician and endocrinologist in 1995. My interest in molecular endocrinology began during my clinical training when I was privileged to look after many children with rare genetic disorders that were associated with endocrine dysfunction of various causes. This led me to develop a great interest in trying to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying hormone action.

To further this important aspect of my career I undertook a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, USA. Here I spent three and half years under the mentorship of Dr George Chrousos and Dr James Segars, immersing myself in the transcriptional regulation of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily. I also undertook clinical research into childhood Cushing syndrome, a disorder characterised by excessive glucocorticoid secretion which leads to profound effects on growth and body composition. These were great times for me as I was exposed to concepts, ideas and techniques that were all new and exciting and allowed me to answer some of my key research questions. Despite the steep learning curve it was an immensely enjoyable time for my family and myself both personally and professionally.

Though the training I received at NIH was first-class, I desired to further my basic research training in molecular endocrinology, so I returned to the Garvan Institute in Sydney to pursue a PhD with Professor John Eisman and Dr Edith Gardiner in the Bone & Mineral Research Program. My PhD studies focused on the molecular mechanisms of vitamin D receptor (VDR) action. From theses studies I cloned a novel VDR-interacting protein, Ski-interacting protein (SKIP) that appears to be an important nuclear receptor coregulator that interacts with many other signalling pathways, including the TGF-b and Notch signalling pathways. Since completion of my PhD in 2001, I have been able to combine my clinical training and molecular interests in hormone action by joining Professor Ken Ho's laboratory in the Pituitary Research Unit at the Garvan Institute. I am now pursuing studies examining the role of the oestrogen and androgen receptors on growth hormone signalling. I have also commenced clinical duties in the endocrine departments of the Sydney Children's and St Vincent's Hospitals. Thus, I am now able to renew the marriage of my clinical and basic interests which over 10 years ago set me on this long, but exhilarating journey of science and discovery! Being awarded the Edman Fellowship will importantly allow me to attend the Keystone Nuclear Receptor meeting in Colorado next year and to visit some of my key USA collaborators.