Professor Julie McMullen
Julie McMullen PhD heads the Cardiac Hypertrophy laboratory at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, and is recognised internationally for research which has defined the molecular distinction between physiological and pathological heart growth (cardiac hypertrophy) in preclinical models of health and disease.
Her research aims to advance understanding of cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure at a molecular level to enhance treatments for this condition, which is rapidly increasing in Australia and globally.
She is fascinated by the idea that the heart enlarges in elite athletes or those who exercise a lot, and this heart growth is good. However, on the other hand, the heart also enlarges in people with heart disease or heart failure and this heart growth is bad. Her work aims to help define which genes are responsible for good or bad heart growth. She discovered that a signalling pathway activated with exercise (i.e. IGF1-PI3K pathway) was critical for physiological hypertrophy (e.g. athlete’s heart) but not pathological hypertrophy (e.g. setting of hypertension). She has over 15 years' experience in the generation and characterisation of genetic and surgical preclinical models of cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure, and expertise related to IGF1-PI3K signalling in the heart. She believes activating this pathway in a setting of heart failure could provide a promising therapeutic strategy for this condition.
More recently she has developed novel therapies based on her findings in genetic mouse models involving adeno-associated virus (AAV) technology, RNA interference approaches, and small molecules. Other research interests include atrial fibrillation and cardiotoxicity.
Professor McMullen graduated from the School of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of New South Wales. She then trained as a Cardiology Research Fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and Harvard Medical School in Boston. During this time she gained experience generating and characterising cardiac specific transgenic mice. In 2005, Professor McMullen established her own laboratory at the Baker Institute. Professor McMullen is currently supported by an NHMRC Research Fellowship. She sits on the Editorial Board of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology and Clinical Science, Scientific Committee of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, and is a Fellow of the American Heart Association and International Society for Heart Research.
In 2017, she was appointed as Head of Discovery and Preclinical Domain at the Baker Institute; overseeing 8 research laboratories. In 2019, she became co-lead of the Hypertension and Cardiac Disease Program at the Baker Institute. She also co-chairs the Institute’s Research Quality Steering Committee and chairs the Animal Ethics Governance and Policy Committee.