Making a valuable contribution to multiple sclerosis research motivates senior research fellow Dr Marzena Fabis-Pedrini, a member of the Demyelinating Diseases Research group at the Perron Institute.
Dr Fabis-Pedrini said she studied science because she was curious about how the human body works and what initiates the disease process.
“Interestingly, multiple sclerosis affects mostly young females in the prime of their lives. It brings unexpected limitations and sometimes a lack of understanding from partners and others,” she said.
Dr Fabis-Pedrini completed her Master of Science in Experimental Biology and a PhD in Animal Physiology and Biochemistry in Poland. She then moved to the United States as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Microbiology and Immunology, and Cancer Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.
“During my time in the US, I was lucky to learn from the extraordinary scientist, Professor Hilary Koprowski, who introduced me to esteemed Professors Robert Gallo and Stanley Prusiner,” she said.
“I’ve learned from them the importance of motivation. Even a small, sometimes accidental discovery can make a tremendous difference to our lives.
“MS is a continually developing field, making it challenging from an intellectual perspective. Moving from the laboratory bench to clinical research is an interesting step.”
Dr Fabis-Pedrini moved to Australia in 2012, joining the Institute shortly after. Her work focuses on understanding the pathogenesis of MS and the role of genetics, immune regulation, and environmental factors in disease susceptibility. She has evaluated a large cohort of patients in the Perth Demyelinating Diseases Database, and established an Australian database for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for MS.
“The Perron Institute has provided the opportunity to work with a great team. Collaborating with Professors Allan Kermode, Bill Carroll and Frank Mastaglia, and clinic manager Sue Walters has enabled me to connect with researchers in Australia and overseas. Those connections have led to many scientific papers.”
Dr Fabis-Pedrini co-authored 42 peer-reviewed publications, many in influential journals (h-index: 18, over 1000 citations). A career highlight was publishing with Professor Kermode, Head of the Demyelinating Diseases Research group, in collaboration with Nobel Laureate Professor Barry Marshall AC in 2015. Together, they revealed that prior infection with the ‘stomach ulcer bug’ H. pylori is associated with a lower risk of developing MS.
“Working in science is competitive and starting a career in research is very challenging. A young scientist must be motivated, passionate and ready to face many obstacles to succeed.”
In her spare time, Dr Fabis-Pedrini enjoys travelling, discovering new places and spending time outdoors.