Associate Professor Hilda Pickett
Head, Telomere Length Regulation Unit, Children’s Medical Research Institute
A/Prof Pickett completed her PhD in telomere molecular biology in the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester. Here, she characterised instability in human telomere repeat arrays in cancer cells, and identified a class of complex telomere mutations caused by inter-telomeric recombination events (published in Nat Genet). A/Prof Pickett then moved to St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, UK, where she completed a postdoc with Cancer Research UK, followed by a second postdoc at Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI), Australia. Here she discovered the novel mechanism of telomere rapid deletion, known as telomere trimming (published in EMBO J), and played instrumental roles in the discovery of a three-state telomere capping mechanism (published in Nat Struct Mol Biol), and in the development of the C-circle assay as a specific and quantifiable test for ALT activity (published in Nat Biotechnol). A/Prof Pickett is now Head of the Telomere Length Regulation Unit, which forms part of the extensive Telomere Biology Program at CMRI, and is a member of scientific advisory committee for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Telomere Analysis Centre (ATAC), a state-of-the-art telomere imaging facility housed at CMRI.
A/Prof Pickett’s research focuses on developing novel microscopy and bioinformatics-based techniques to measure telomere length and identify telomere maintenance mechanisms. Her lab has pioneered the use of next generation sequencing strategies for telomere analysis. A/Prof Pickett’s lab is also at the forefront of research into telomere maintenance mechanisms, the DNA damage response, and the mechanisms that direct DNA repair pathway engagement, and has made seminal discoveries regarding the ALT pathway. Her lab is currently pursuing several of these proteins as potential therapeutic targets.