Dr Jessie Jacobsen awarded Neurological Foundation 2012 Repatriation Fellowship
Dr Jessie Jacobsen has been awarded the 2012 Neurological Foundation Repatriation Fellowship. Dr Jacobsen will return to New Zealand from her position as Neurological Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.
Dr Jacobsen was awarded the Neurological Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2008 which enabled the former Pakuranga College (Auckland) head girl to study for three years in one of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions. Dr Jacobsen continued her University of Auckland PhD research, which focused on the genetic brain disorder Huntington’s disease, while based at Massachusetts General Hospital, the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.
Dr Jacobsen’s research over the last nine years has been focused on the genetics involved in Huntington’s disease, providing a robust platform for her Neurological Foundation Repatriation Fellowship study. Identifying DNA variants that contribute to disease is central to human genetics, allowing for a better understanding of brain pathophysiology, and improved diagnosis, prognosis and therapies. The genetics of neurological disease is an exciting area of investigation and Dr Jacobsen’s fellowship supervisor at the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Russell Snell, says Dr Jacobsen is returning at an opportune time. “The technological breakthroughs over the last four years have brought the sequencing and analysis of individual genomes within the reach of research groups here. In addition to improving our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis and providing diagnostic and ultimately therapeutic options for ASD, the technology is the forerunner of many future studies of complex genetics.”
Dr Jacobsen is thrilled to be returning home and excited about furthering her research career. “New Zealand has a rich, collaborative research network, involving both clinicians and research scientists, and I hope to contribute to this network. Thanks to the Neurological Foundation Repatriation Fellowship, I can focus on establishing an independent research career using the skills, knowledge and collaborations formed during my PhD training and postdoctoral research experience overseas. My aspiration is to be involved in finding a treatment or cure for genetically based neurological disease by contributing to the international effort to better understand the underlying genetics and processes of these disorders.”
Dr Jessie Jacobsen
School of Biological Sciences
The University of Auckland
Identification of genetic variants in Autism Spectrum Disorders in the New Zealand population
Disorders of the Autism Spectrum (ASD) are estimated to affect approximately 1% of the New Zealand population, and have a strong, but complex genetic basis. The aim of Dr Jacobsen’s research is to investigate autistic traits and heritability in the New Zealand population using next generation DNA sequencing technologies. Identifying a genetic trait that predisposes to the development of a disease can lead to genetic tests, insight into disease biology, differentiation amongst patients and improved treatment options. The genetic data accumulated in this project will help establish a precedent for genetic testing for ASD in New Zealand, creating better education and social support, and ultimately, greater treatment options for patients and family members affected by disorders of the autism spectrum.