Scientist’s imaging research recognised in Chan Zuckerberg award
Associate Professor Georg Ramm of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s (CZI) Imaging Scientists program.
The Imaging Scientist grant will fund Associate Professor Ramm’s work at the Monash Ramaciotti Centre for Cryo-Electron Microscopy for up to five years, allowing him to develop ways to use cryo-electron tomography bridging cell and structural biology.
“It’s a huge opportunity for the Ramaciotti Centre to lead further development in a fast growing imaging field,” Associate Professor Ramm said. “It will support our extensive collaborations in seeking answers to fundamental biomedical questions.”
The CZI Imaging Scientists program aims to drive breakthroughs in curing, preventing or managing disease by advancing the imaging field. This includes increasing collaboration between biologists and technology experts, improving microscopy tools and expanding access to these tools, and supporting increased training and community building.
“The grant is a recognition of the strength in imaging at Monash University,” Associate Professor Ramm said.
Cryo-electron tomography is a high-resolution, 3-D imaging technique bringing together the fields of cell biology (the organisation and functioning of the cell) and structural biology, which traditionally looks at proteins in isolation, he explained.
“Cell biologists working together with structural biologists can understand the molecular architecture of the cell in intricate detail and obtain structural information about large protein complexes directly within the cell. We can apply this technique to our understanding of human diseases,” he said.
Associate Professor Ramm, who heads the Monash Ramaciotti Centre for Cryo-Electron Microscopy, said his team was now applying the technique to tissue.
“It’s a complicated process – you have to cut a window into these tissue layers to be able to look through them in an electron microscope,” he said. “The grant will help us improve the technique and apply it in both fundamental research and applied settings.”
One application of the research will look at how mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cells – behave when things go wrong, which can have health implications including in auto-immune diseases. Another application will probe muscle disease.
“We’ll be able to study that in real tissues, not just cells, as we have done before.”
Professor John Carroll, Director of the Monash BDI, thanked CZI for their support of this discovery research, and offered his congratulations to Associate Professor Ramm.
“We are delighted for Georg, who has worked tirelessly to build our capability in imaging. We thank CZI for recognising Georg’s talents and Monash’s investment in technology that will allow remarkable new insights in understanding how our cells work,” Professor Carroll said.
The grant enables Associate Professor Ramm to teach both local and international scientists how to use the techniques, drawing on his track record in holding advanced imaging workshops.
This is the second time a Monash BDI scientist has won a CZI fellowship: Dr Juan Nunez-Iglesias, a Bioimage Analysis Research Fellow at Monash Micro Imaging (MMI), became an Imaging Software Fellow in the first cycle of scientists in 2019, the only Australian researcher to gain one. Twenty-two grants totalling $17.5 million were awarded to scientists in 11 countries in this round.
“We want to enable researchers everywhere to visualize, measure, and analyze the biological processes underlying health and disease,” said CZI Head of Science, Cori Bargmann.
“By collaborating closely with the imaging community and providing both funding and expertise in technology development, we hope to help make the next breakthroughs in imaging possible,” said CZI Imaging Program Officer Stephani Otte.
Read the CZI press release to see the full list of recipients.
About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.
About the Monash Ramaciotti Centre for Cryo-Electron Microscopy
The Monash Ramaciotti Centre is a leading facility for life sciences electron microscopy. It houses Australia’s first Titan Krios microscope, currently the most advanced microscope for biological EM. The facility’s expert team supports and collaborates on a large number of bio EM techniques ranging from standard SEM and TEM to immuno EM, correlative light and electron microscopy, cryo tomography and single particle analysis.
About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University
Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning six discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection and Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.