Associate Professor White is a Principal Research Fellow (Group Leader) and NHMRC Senior Research Fellow (SRFA) (2017-2021) at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute where he leads a group researching cellular processes in neurodegenerative diseases with a focus on developing new human cell models of neurodegeneration. He received his PhD from Murdoch University (1996) followed by post-doctoral appointments at the University of Melbourne (1996-2001) and Imperial College, London (2001-2003). Since 2003, he was appointed at the University of Melbourne (2003-2016) and moved to QIMR Berghofer in 2016. He has over 140 research publications, obtained over $10 million in competitive research funding and co-founded a start-up biotech company (Procypra Therapeutics). His research has led to the development of first-in-class metal-drugs as a new therapeutic approach to neurodegeneration, leading to a novel copper-based metal-drug currently in clinical trials for motor neuron disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Current QIMR Berghofer appointment
- 2016 – current: Principal Research Fellow (Group Leader)
- 2017 – 2021: NHMRC Senior Research Fellow
Other current appointments
- Honorary Principal Research Fellow – Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Melbourne
- Honorary Research Associate – Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
- Adjunct Professor of Translational Neuroscience at A.I. Virtanen Institute, Finland
- Principal Research Fellow (Associate Professor), Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne (2004-2016)
- Senior Research Officer, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health (2003)
- Research Associate, Imperial College of Medicine, London, UK (2001-2002)
- Senior Research Fellow, Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne (1996-2001)
Current Area of Research
The Cellular and Molecular Neurodegeneration Laboratory investigates the cause and potential treatments for brain diseases including dementia (Alzheimer’s disease), motor neuron disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and Parkinson’s disease. These disorders (collectively known as neurodegenerative diseases) are a growing health issue in Australia and worldwide, with few treatment options available. In order to gain a better understanding of these diseases and develop new therapeutic approaches, the research team is currently developing new human brain cell culture methods.
A major focus of this research is the development of a 3D human ‘brain on a chip’ cell culture platform that combines different human brain cell types into a 3D microfluidic culture plate. The advantage is that the 3D system provides a far better model of the actual human brain while still allowing manipulation and experimentation in a culture plate.
The cells used in the 3D brain on a chip include neurons, astrocytes and microglia (resident brain immune cells) and are generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells, natural olfactory stem cells, and blood-derived cells from normal people and those with brain disease. This 3D platform is being used to build new models of the brain for dementia and motor neuron disease research, in particular to understand the role of the immune system in brain diseases, and develop new therapeutic compounds targeting the immune cells of the brain.
Current research topics include:
- 3D Alzheimer’s disease ‘brain on a chip’.
- 3D motor neuron disease cell model.
- Olfactory stem cells as a new approach to understand dementia, Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.
- Monocyte-derived microglia for testing of patient responses to neuroinflammatory-modulating compounds in dementia and motor neuron disease.
- iPSC-derived human microglia, and brain organoids for investigating neuroinflammation.
- Development of a new blood brain barrier cell culture model.
- Investigating the role of air pollution in dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Metal-drug therapeutics and diagnostics for brain disorders.
- Alzheimer’s disease 3D ‘brain on a chip’.
- New cell models to understand the role of patient-derived microglia in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Generating Alzheimer’s microglia for testing patient responses to immune-modulating compounds.
- Olfactory stem cells for investigating the causes and progression of dementia.
- Air pollution and dementia.
- Metal-drug therapeutics and diagnostics for brain disorders.
- Australian Research Council.
- National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.
- Alzheimer’s Australia.
- Motor Neuron Disease Research Institute of Australia.
- Dr Christine Guo, Translational Neuroscience
- Professor Greg Anderson, Iron Metabolism
- Dr Guy Barry, Neurogenomics
- Dr Michelle Lupton, Genetic Epidemiology
- Professor Kum Kum Khanna, Signal Transduction
- Associate Professor Michelle Hill, Precision and Systems Biomedicine
- Dr Katja Kanninen and Dr Tarja Malm, A.I. Virtanen Institute, Kuopio, Finland.
- Dr Lezanne Ooi, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, Wollongong, Australia.
- Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, Griffith University, Australia.
- Professor Vincenzo La Bella, University of Palermo, Italy.
- Dr Alexandra Grubman, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
- Professor Paul Donnelly, School of Chemistry and Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia.
- Dr Luke Knibbs and Professor Zoran Ristovski, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.
- Dr Jeffrey Liddell and Dr Peter Crouch, Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, Australia.
- Professor Jari Koistinaho, A.I. Virtanen Institute, Kuopio, Finland.
- Professor Ashley Bush and Professor Colin Masters, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne, Australia.
- Associate Professor Elizabeth New, University of Sydney, Australia.
- Associate Professor Ian Blair, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
- Development of copper-based therapeutic from concept to clinical trials for motor neuron disease (Roberts et al., Journal of Neuroscience (2014) 34, 8021-31).
- Identification of key role for zinc transporter Zip7 in Batten (neurodegenerative) disease (Grubman et al., Acta Neuropathologica Communications (2014) 2(1):25.).
- Key advances in X-Ray imaging of metals in cells and tissues at the Australian Synchrotron (Grubman et al., Chemical Science (2014) 5, 2503 – 2516).
- Developed the concept of metal redistribution as a therapeutic approach to treat neurodegeneration (Crouch et al., Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2009) 106, 381-386).
- First to demonstrate protection of prion-infected mice by passive immunization (White et al., Nature (2003) 422, 80-83).
- First to demonstrate a biological impact for copper binding to the amyloid precursor protein of Alzheimer’s disease (White et al., Journal of Neuroscience (1999) 19, 9170-9179).
- Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research
- Council Member: International Society for Trace Element Research in Humans
- International Society for Neurochemistry
- Australian Neuroscience Society
- International Society for Zinc Biology
- International Biometals Society
- NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (2017-2021)
- ISN Symposium Award – The Roles of Copper in Neuroscience and Common Neurodegenerative Diseases, at Copper 2016, Sorrento, Italy, 2016
- Sigrid Juselius Foundation Travel Award for research travel to Finland, 2013
- Dyason Travel Fellowship for travel to Finland, 2012
- NHMRC Ten of the Best Research Projects Award, 2011
- Young Investigator travel award (2005-2007), International Society for Neurochemistry
- Patent licenced to Collaborative Medicinal Development LLC (USA)
- Co-founding scientist, Procypra Therapeutics
- Associate Editor, Neurochemistry International
- 1991: BSc (Hons) Murdoch University, Australia
- 1996: PhD Murdoch University, Australia