Julian Heng

Associate Professor

  • The University of Western Australia (M503), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Associate Professor Julian Heng attained his Bachelor's degree with First Class Honours at the University of Western Australia, and then earned his Doctorate from the University of Melbourne while working within the Howard Florey Institute (now the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health). In 2004, he undertook postdoctoral training at the National Institute for Medical Research (Mill Hill, UK), holding a CJ Martin Fellowship as well as an MRC Career Development Fellowship to extend his period of training. In 2010, he established his independent research programme at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia) and was awarded a Career Development Fellowship (2011-2014, NH&MRC, Australia) to foster his research programme. In 2014, he relocated his research to the University of Western Australia, and to join the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in the pursuit of health translational outcomes directly applicable to his gene discovery work.

Roles and responsibilities

I lead a team of postdocs, graduate research assistants and honours students. I have published 25 refereed research articles, 3 reviews and 1 book chapter. My publications attract >1000 total career citations, with 5 papers cited over 100 times.

National Profile: Since 2007, I have delivered 13 oral presentations as invited speaker at National Conferences (at least 1 per year), including 2 plenary speaker invitations (2012, 2014) and 3 as Symposium Organiser (2010, 2013, 2015). In addition, I have delivered 19 invited oral presentations, including 6 invitations to interstate Institutions as a fully funded speaker.

International Profile: Since 2007, I have presented at 9 International Conferences, with travel awards to attend five of these conferences funded by the Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS), the International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN) and the Asian-Pacific Society for Neurochemistry (APSN). In addition, I have delivered 7 departmental seminars to learned institutions in the US (New York), Europe (UK, Belgium, Austria), China, Taiwan, Japan and Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia).

Conference Organisation: Since 2010, I have organised 12 Scientific Symposia for Conferences including ComBio, the Australian Neuroscience Society, the ANZSCDB, and the ISN.

Roles in Journals (Editor etc), Societies and Committees/Panels: I am Editorial Board Member of The International Journal of Neurology Research (2014). I also hold membership of the following Societies: ANS (2007-current); The Biochemistry Society, UK (2007-2008); Member and former State (VIC) Representative of the ANZSCDB (2008-current); The ISN (2011-current); The APSN (2014-2016); and the Brain Foundation (2014-2017).

Reviewer: I serve as ad hoc journal reviewer for Nature Neuroscience, Developmental Dynamics, Brain Research, Cell Death and Differentiation, BMC Neuroscience, The Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Stem Cell Research, Human Molecular Genetics, and The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. (2008-current).

I serve as Grant Reviewer for the NH&MRC (Australia) (2009-current) as well as Grant Review Panel Member (2013-4). I also serve as grant reviewer for the Australian Research Council (ARC) (2009-current) as well as National and International funding agencies.

Funding overview

Fellowship Support
2003: Travel Grant, Australian Neuroscience Society, Australia.
2004: C J Martin Biomedical Research Fellowship.
2007: Travel Grant, Federation of Biochemical Sciences (FEBS), Europe.
2009: Travelling Fellowship, Japan Neuroscience Society, Japan.
2010: “Caitlin’s Fund at the Florey” Philanthropic Trust.
2010-2015: Monash University Research (Logan) Fellowship Laboratory Support, Evaluating the capacity of nerve cell production within fetal and adult brain. Role: PI (sole investigator).
2011-2015: NH&MRC Career Development Award (CDA Level 1), A rheostat for the control of gene expression during nerve cell maturation. Role: PI.
2011: Travelling Fellowship, International Society of Neurochemistry.

Current research grants
2012-2015: NH&MRC (Australia) Project Grant 1028258, A novel gene implicated in the etiology of abnormal brain development and intellectual disability. Role: PI (Project leader).
2013-2015: Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project DP130103328, Subcellular recruitment of a RhoA ubiquitination complex by Rnd proteins. Role: PI (Project leader).
2014-2016: NH&MRC (Australia) Project Grant APP1057751, The RNA-binding protein ZFP36L1 regulates neural progenitor cell self-renewal during development and disease. Role: CIB.
2015: WA Department of Health Near-Miss award for outstanding NHMRC project grant application in 2014.
2015: Blue Sky Research Grant, Telethon Kid’s Institute (co-investigator).
2015: Ada Bartholomew Medical Research Trust Grant, UWA.
2015: Cockell Research collaboration award, UWA (lead investigator).

Completed NH&MRC project grants
2004-2008: NH&MRC (Australia) C J Martin Biomedical Research Fellowship 310616, The role of proneural bHLH transcription factors in the mammalian central nervous system during development and in adulthood. Role: PI.
Productivity: 11 publications (publications 6-16), including manuscripts in Nature and Trends in Neurosciences, with >600 citations.
2009-2011: NH&MRC (Australia) Project Grant 566835, The role of Rnd genes during cortical neurogenesis and cell migration. Role: PI (sole investigator).
Productivity: 5 publications (publications 1, 6-9), including manuscripts in Cell Reports and Neuron with >40 citations. Two further manuscripts are in the submission process.
2010-2012: NH&MRC (Australia) Project Grant 628517, Mechanisms guiding pathfinding and positioning of cortical interneurons. Role: CIB.
Productivity: 7 publications with >20 citations.

Previous positions

2004-2006: National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia (NH&MRC) C J Martin Biomedical (Overseas) Research Fellow at the National Institute for Medical Research (Mill Hill, UK), in the laboratory of Dr. François Guillemot.
2006-2008: Medical Research Council (UK) Career Development Fellow at the National Institute for Medical Research (Mill Hill, UK), in the laboratory of Dr. François Guillemot.
2008-2010: National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia C J Martin Biomedical (Returning) Research Fellow at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes, in the laboratory of Professor Seong-Seng Tan.
2010-2014: Senior Research (Monash) Fellow and Group Leader, The Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), Australia.


The goal of my research is to understand how the brain is put together, and to apply this knowledge to give individuals the best start to life as well as to maintain good mental health as we age. My laboratory investigates the genetic basis for neural circuit formation in the brain as a means to understand what makes each of us think in our own unique way. I have a particular interest in the molecular and cellular mechanisms which underpin neuronal development within the mammalian brain, and to understand how mutations to genes which control these mechanisms lead to autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability and epilepsy.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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