This  month  our  spotlight  is  on  AEpiA  member  Dr Marnie Blewitt  from  the  Walter and Eliza Hall Institute  of  Medical  Research  in  Melbourne.

Marnie Blewitt
The year 2015 has been a busy one so far for Marnie  –  she was awarded the inaugural Lorne Genome Conference Women in Science Award in February, and she has had a number of exciting publications, including recent articles in PNAS and Blood, to name but two.

Dr Marnie Blewitt completed her PhD with Prof Emma Whitelaw at The University of Sydney, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship with Prof Douglas Hilton at WEHI, where she continued her work characterising the novel epigenetic repressor Smchd1 (that she identified during her PhD), and also studied polycomb group proteins in hematopoietic stem cell function. Her achievements earned her the Australian Academy of Science Gani Medal and the L’Oreal Australia Women in Science Fellowship in 2009.

In 2010, Marnie established her own group at WEHI as an ARC QEII fellow, working on molecular mechanisms of epigenetic control in haematopoietic stem cells, neural stem cells and in X chromosome inactivation. She received a Financial Review 100 Women of Influence Award in 2013.

In a study published earlier this year, Marnie’s team identified Jarid2 (a histone demethylase protein) as an important component of polycomb repressive complex (PRC2) with a central role in coordinating hematopoietic stem and progenitor (HSPC) function. Blood 2015 Mar 19;125(12)

Just this month, Marnie’s latest publication describes how she and her colleagues used genome-wide transcriptional and epigenetic analyses to further elucidate Smchd1 function. The results describe novel mechanisms whereby Smchd1 directly binds DNA to potentially mediate 3D chromatin architecture. This new model of Smchd1 function will aid in understanding how mutated Smchd1 contributes to facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, opening the door for therapeutic development to help the one in 8000 young adults that develop this debilitating disease. PNAS 2015 Jul 7;112(27)

We at AEpiA congratulate Marnie on her wonderful achievements to date and look forward to hearing her speak at Epigenetics 2015 in Hobart this November.