Tom McWilliams appointed Assistant Professor of Mitochondrial Medicine & Academy Scientist at University of Helsinki, Finland

Tom McWilliams
Tom McWilliams

Tom McWilliams, a postdoc at the MRC PPU has been awarded a prestigious Academy of Finland Research Fellowship. The Academy of Finland is the pre-eminent scientific funding body in Finland, and their highly competitive research fellowship scheme aims to attract and support young investigators with outstanding potential.

This competitive award will enable Tom to establish his own laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Helsinki. Established in 1640, this is Finland's oldest and most esteemed institution for research and education. In addition to being named an Academy Scientist, Tom has secured additional funding and will start his laboratory as a Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Mitochondrial Medicine.

He joins a critical mass of leading scientists in Helsinki, renowned for their pioneering contributions to mitochondrial genetics, in vivo neuroscience, translational cell biology and molecular medicine, including Academy Professors Anu Suomalainen-Wartiovaara, Kari Alitalo, Howy Jacobs and Mart Saarma.

Tom's laboratory will build upon groundbreaking work with Ian Ganley, where they uncovered new instances of basal mitophagy in major organ systems of developing and mature mammals. This and forthcoming work has significant implications for understanding mitochondrial homeostasis in a range of inherited and idiopathic diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. Tom's lab is based in the research unit of molecular neurology and will have a particular focus on mitochondrial signalling in neurodegeneration. Located at the Meilahti clinical campus in Biomedicum Helsinki, his laboratory directly interfaces with leading academics and clinicians, embedded within state of the art research infrastructure for in vivo cell biology.

Ian Ganley, Programme Leader and Tom’s co-supervisor said: “This is fantastic news and great validation for all the hard work Tom has put into his postdoc. I think the excellence and environment at Helsinki will enable Tom to cement his status as a rising star in the field of mitochondrial homeostasis”.

Miratul Muqit, Consultant Neurologist and supervisor at the MRC PPU, commented: “I congratulate Tom on this appointment which will allow him to establish his independent group in Helsinki. During his post-doc at the MRC PPU, he combined cutting edge neurobiology, biochemistry and state-of-the-art imaging to unearth the extent of basal mitophagy in vivo under both physiological conditions as well as disease states linked to Parkinson’s disease. I am sure his unique combination of expertise will ensure he continues to make impactful advances in mitochondrial biology.”

Commenting on the award, Tom said: "I'm extremely excited to embark upon this new adventure in Helsinki, with its long-standing reputation in both mitochondrial biology and neuroscience. This is a truly a phenomenal time to work in mitochondrial medicine, particularly at the nexus of signalling and translation. I am grateful to all of my mentors past and present, and in particular Ian, Miratul, Dario and others in the wider SLS, including my mentors at Cardiff University and NUI Galway for their invaluable guidance. I would also like to thank those in the mitochondrial community for their support and encouragement."

Over the coming weeks and months, Tom will be considering prospective candidates for a range of future positions. Those interested should contact him directly by e-mailing: thomas.mcwilliams@helsinki.fi

Lab Member