ARMI is pleased to welcome its newest Group Leader, Dr Nadinath Nillegoda. Coming all the way from Sri Lanka with career pit-stops in the United States and Germany, Nadinath is now exploring the nexus between neurodegeneration and immunology, which provides him a niche in a quickly expanding research field. Neurodegenerative diseases, collectively, are the leading cause of disability among our aging communities and there is no effective cure. Since joining us in December, Nadinath has been hard at work setting up his research group in the pursuit of a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underpin neurodegenerative diseases. With hopes of pushing the boundaries of brain research, Nadinath is determined to improve the health outcomes for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The Nillegoda Group is positioned at the forefront of protein conformational disease research, where the lab is probing attractive new proteostasis-based directions for future innovative therapeutic interventions that could potentially slow or even reverse neurodegeneration. By targeting a pathogenic pathway that is characteristic of a spectrum of diseases, the findings could be applicable for a broad number of neurodegenerative diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to Multiple sclerosis.
Science often moves in baby steps with an occasional leap that instigates a paradigm shift. “The most exciting discoveries of my work often resulted from unconventional thinking and trying out ideas which at first, did not sound the most logical – what we often forget is that ‘biology’ doesn’t have to follow our preordained logic,” commented Nadinath. “And when it comes to neurodegenerative disease research, where many of the more ‘conventional’ strategies have failed, we now need to invest in bold new approaches. My research program is having a fresh look at fundamentally important contributors of neurodegeneration.” Nadinath’s group is one of the pioneers in investigating the regulation and mechanism of Hsp70 chaperone-based protein disaggregases in human cells. This family of enzymes holds the potential to breakdown and help clear potentially toxic protein aggregates linked to the degeneration of neurons, which is key to its therapeutic potential.
Growing up in Sri Lanka, Nadinath has always had a knack for science. With an initial interest in chemistry, he believed that to be the field he would pursue. However, his combined interest in Indiana Jones, archaeology and problem solving changed that, helping him realise that his passion laid in ‘problem solving and connecting the dots’ – an inherent challenge in biology. After securing a scholarship to pursue a undergraduate degree in Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University, he moved to the United States to study genetics, chemistry and microbiology.
It wasn’t long until Nadinath completed a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine at New York University before completing postdoctoral studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, all in the field of proteostasis. Here, Nadinath published his breakthrough paper, Crucial HSP70 co-chaperone complex unlocks metazoan protein disaggregation, in the prestigious journal Nature.
This globe-traversing research journey put him on the path that eventually lead him here, to ARMI. When a position at the Institute opened up, requesting his exact skill set and knowledge, Nadinath was excited by the prospect of coming to Australia, which according to his words was “a land of many intriguing aberrations, like misfolded/aggregated proteins, ‘potentially’ deadly, but beautiful and fascinating in their own right.”
Fast forward to today, Nadinath is now living in Melbourne and enjoying his first experience establishing his own research group. Able to also enjoy the warm Australia weather, some cricket, travel and to immerse himself in the community at ARMI, Nadinath is excited to welcome in a challenging but exciting new year. Welcome Nadinath, we look forward to what the future has in store!