When the opportunity arose for Mark Molloy to return to his native Australia as a group leader at the Australian Proteomics Analysis Facility, he didn’t need a lot of convincing. “I’m an Australian by birth and at heart, and there’s not a lot of opportunities to come back to this country [as a senior level scientist],” he says. Of course, the downside was that he had to give up his position at Pfizer’s Ann Arbor, Mich., research facility working under well-known proteomics researcher Ruth Van Bogelen.
But Molloy, 33, isn’t totally abandoning the general thrust of his research in the US. Before joining Pfizer, he spent a year and a half as a postdoc in Phil Andrews’ lab at the University of Michigan, and for three years under Van Bogelen he led a small group of scientists investigating how new protein biomarkers could serve as early indicators of drug safety or toxicity. At APAF, a federally funded independent research center located on the campus of Macquarie University in Sydney, Molloy plans to continue discovering new biomarkers for use in disease research, as well as developing new technology for quantitative protein analysis and studying protein phosphorylation.
As one of three group leaders at APAF, Molloy is excited about having free rein to determine the scope of his research interests. Aside from advancing the utility of protein biomarkers, Molloy hopes his work in protein quantification will help improve researchers’ ability to accurately map protein function. “It’s an area that we don’t really understand because we haven’t been able to do it so accurately in the past,” he says. “For clinical applications, quantitation is absolutely essential.”
Molloy is still in the process of building up his group, having just started at APAF in late July, but he’s already rounded up three students and a postdoc while he applies for additional grants and seeks collaborations with industry to complement APAF’s work with Bio-Rad, Applied Biosystems, and Lumicyte. He says he’ll most likely be working harder at APAF than he was at Pfizer. “Life was pretty good at Pfizer,” he admits. But for the moment, Molloy and his fiancée — also originally from Australia — are pretty happy about the move.
— John S. MacNeil