The 2015 LabGear Australia Discovery Science Award: Paul Gleeson

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Melbourne

Gleeson Paul Gleeson explores the molecular machinery which regulates protein sorting and membrane trafficking in the secretory and endocytic pathways of the cell. His primary focus has centred on the Golgi apparatus where he has made seminal discoveries to define mechanisms for the recruitment of resident Golgi proteins and the key role of membrane tethers in regulating trafficking pathways into and out of the Golgi. His findings have demonstrated the importance of defining membrane trafficking pathways in specialised cells to understand physiological processes and mechanisms of disease, and the potential for the development of new therapeutic drugs that target the membrane transport machinery.

Exposure to a diverse range of research areas early in his career made a major impact on Paul’s research. After a BSc (Honours) at the University of Melbourne in Microbiology with Professor Nancy Millis and a period at CSIRO (then the Division of Protein Chemistry), Paul undertook a PhD with Professor Adrienne Clarke in the School of Botany at the University of Melbourne, analysing the structures of carbohydrates important in pollen stigma interactions (with visits to the marine research station on Heron Island!). After postdoctoral training at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the National Institute for Medical Research, London, where he identified novel glycosyltransferases and analysed lectin-resistant cell lines, he spent a short period at La Trobe University before moving to Monash University (Department of Immunology, Alfred campus). Here he established studies on the targeting of glycosyltransferases and novel approaches to identify trafficking machinery. With his colleague Ian van Driel, he also expanded his research interests to the field of autoimmune diseases.

Paul has obtained patents on the machinery of anterograde trafficking and secretion of TNF from macrophages together with Jennifer Stow (Institute of Molecular Bioscience, Queensland). His work has resulted in ARC Linkage Grants with the biotech company CSL, the most recent of which was to study the recycling of receptors responsible for prolonging the half-life of serum proteins and the use of recombinant engineered proteins for therapeutic applications. He also develops new technologies for cell biologists and with Danny Hatters has pioneered flow cytometry approaches to analyse cargo trafficking and to purify cell populations based on differences in intracellular protein location.

In 2001, Paul moved to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne and was a foundation lab head of the Bio21 Institute. Since becoming Head of Department in 2006, he has recruited young, talented researchers to the department to enhance programs across multiple disciplines. He strongly advocates the importance of the convergence of molecular, physical and mathematical sciences for future discoveries in biomedicine. Paul has actively engaged in the development of the cell biology field in various international and national forums, including the Hunter Cell Biology meeting.