Winner of FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence 2021

Professor Ricky W. Johnstone

Executive Director, Cancer Research, Head of the Gene Regulation Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Head of Department, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne

Prof. Johnstone completed his BSc (Hons.) degree from the University of Melbourne in 1988 with a double major in Pathology and Immunology. In 1990 he accepted an Australian Postgraduate Award and started work on his PhD at the Austin Research Institute that was completed in 1993. In 1994, he was awarded a C.J. Martin Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) to perform postdoctoral studies in the Department of Pathology at Harvard University Medical School in Boston, USA. He returned to Australia in 1996 to take up a position as a Senior Research Officer at The Austin Research Institute and was made an associate of the University of Melbourne. In 1999, he was awarded an R.D. Wright Research Fellowship from the NHMRC and in 2000, won a Welcome Trust Senior International Research Fellowship. He moved to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in February 2000 to establish the Gene Regulation Laboratory.

From 2008, Prof. Johnstone held the position of Assistant Director Cancer Research and in 2015 was appointed Associate Director Laboratory Research. In 2018 he was appointed Executive Director Cancer Research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre overseeing ~700 staff and students and plays a key role in strategic decision making across the organisation. He was also appointed Head of Department, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Science at the University of Melbourne. He runs a laboratory of 15 staff and students, has published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers, was awarded an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship in 2015 and is a Full Professor in the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology at the University of Melbourne.

Prof. Johnstone has been won a number of prestigious awards including the Australian Academy of Science Gottschalk Medal (2005), AMGEN Prize for excellence (2003) and the Australian Life Science Research Award (1999). In 2015 he was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and in 2014 he was listed by Thomson Reuters as one of the world’s most influential scientists based on citation rates for my papers. In 2020 he was named by PLOS Biology as in the top 0.14% of authors for my research subfield of Oncology & Carcinogenesis, according to Stanford University’s annual publication of standardised citation metrics across all scientists and scientific disciplines for career-long citation impact up until the end of 2019.

Prof. Johnstone is an internationally renowned cancer researcher who has utilized genetic mouse models of hemopoietic malignancies and solid tumors to understand the epigenetic and transcriptional changes that underpin tumor onset and progression and to develop new therapies that target epigenetic and transcriptional regulatory proteins. Professor Johnstone has recently discovered how epigenetic based-agents can engage the host immune system to drive prolonged therapeutic responses.

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