Professor of Molecular Biology at UNSW Science Merlin Crossley AM, who is also Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Quality at UNSW Sydney, has received the 2023 Award for Research Excellence from the Federation of Asian and Oceanian Biochemists and Molecular Biologists (FAOBMB).

The FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence is based on work predominantly carried out within the region and reflects excellence of scientific contributions to the field and sustained research productivity.

Prof. Crossley is an expert on human gene regulation and how it relates to inherited blood disorders, such as haemophilia and sickle cell disorder. Most recently he pioneered new CRISPR-gene editing strategies to introduce naturally occurring beneficial mutations into blood stem cells as a form of somatic gene therapy. He received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours for his significant contribution to education and to molecular biology.

“During my career I have seen the science in our region take off in terms of sophistication and impact. This makes recognition of my and my team’s work by the Asian and Oceanic Federation very important, and on a personal level I am deeply appreciative,” Prof. Crossley said.

Research, roles and awards

Prof. Crossley became interested in gene regulation as an undergraduate in Jim Pittard’s lab at the University of Melbourne. He moved to Oxford for his doctorate, supported by a Rhodes Scholarship, and investigated the regulation of the clotting factor IX gene in George Brownlee’s lab, and subsequently moved to Stu Orkin’s lab in Harvard and investigated the developmental regulation of the globin genes. In 2010, Prof. Crossley joined UNSW.

In addition to his research contributions, Prof. Crossley is an enthusiastic lecturer and science communicator. He is Chair of the Editorial Board of The Conversation, and Chair of the Board of UNSW Press, Deputy Chair of the Australian Science Media Centre, a member of the Editorial Board of BioEssays, and an Honorary Associate of the Australian Museum.

Prof. Crossley has served as Dean of Science, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education. In the latter role he supported the establishment of a community of Education Focussed staff who can, but are not required to, do research. This has had benefits for both students and staff.

His multiple awards include a Rhodes Scholarship, the Gottschalk Medal from the Australian Academy of Science (2002), Lorne Genome’s Julian Wells Medal (2010), the NSW Premier’s Award for Medical Biological Science (2020 NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering), and the Lemberg Medal from the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2021).

In 2021 the Australian Museum named a new species of ‘butterfly bobtail’ squidIridoteuthis merlini – in honour of Prof. Crossley, a longstanding Museum affiliate.