15 March 2021

Gene therapy focus for our newest PhD graduate

Congratulations to recent PhD graduate Oliver (Dunhui) Li, MD and now PhD, of the Motor Neurone Disease Genetics and Therapeutics Research group at the Perron Institute and Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics (CMMIT) at Murdoch University.

His thesis, undertaken in the Molecular Therapies group at CMMIT, focused on developing novel antisense therapies for inherited rare diseases including Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease caused by mutations in the PARK2 gene.

“The outcome from my PhD provides justifications to further develop exon-skipping therapies for people diagnosed with these disorders,” Dr Li said. “The aim in completing my thesis Antisense Oligonucleotide-Mediated Exon Skipping Strategy as a treatment for Rare Diseases was to help translate research in this field to clinical application for people in need.

“I’d like to thank my supervisors Professor Steve Wilton, Professor Sue Fletcher, Dr May Aung-Htut and Professor Norman Palmer, and my family for the long-term support during my PhD candidature.

“I also extend my appreciation to Muscular Dystrophy WA for the generous scholarship and travel support,” Dr Li said.

“During my postgraduate studies I’ve gained knowledge in antisense technology and mastered the basic cellular and molecular biology methods. I look forward to extending the application of these techniques to address problems in other neurodegenerative disorders.”

Dr Li’s focus as a postdoctoral research scientist in the Motor Neurone Disease Genetics and Therapeutics Research group will be projects contributing to developing novel therapies for MND/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

During his medical training at Ruijin Hospital and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, a focus was neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease, and it remains his ongoing passion.

Another recent achievement for Dr Li was being awarded second place in the Perron Institute’s 2021 Best Paper Competition for students. He received a prize of $1,000 for his paper in Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids on mapping functional domains in the dystrophin protein. The judges also gave a special commendation to Dr Li for a second paper, a review in the journal Molecular Research Reviews on progress on the molecular pathogenesis and therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Li has also recently joined the editorial board of Frontiers in Bioscience journals.

Congratulations, Dr Li!