Meet MCRI: Associate Professor Jeff Craig

A/Prof Jeff Craig is a Senior Research Fellow in Environmental & Genetic Epidemiology Research

Tell us about your research 

I study the role of epigenetics in the early life origins of chronic disease. Epigenetics refer to the molecular switches that control the activity of our genes without changing our DNA sequence.

We know that the environments we encounter in the first 1000 days of life can change gene activity through changes to epigenetic switches and that these changes can last a lifetime. They can also predispose us to chronic diseases, from heart disease to autism.

Through my research, I have shown that exposures such as alcohol or folate consumption in pregnancy can alter epigenetic switches.

I have also found genes with epigenetic switches which are reset in people with disorders such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy. If I can replicate this finding in more samples, this could lead to earlier detection of these conditions.

What are you hoping to achieve through the work that you're doing/what is your ideal goal?

My ultimate goal is to be able to predict a child's risk for specific disorders to enable other MCRI researchers and health care professionals, such as occupational and speech therapists, to lessen the impact of disorders such as cerebral palsy and autism.    

How many people are potentially impacted by your research?

Globally, there are 13 million preventable deaths from chronic disease. I want to improve the lives of people, especially children, with chronic disease so they can live long and healthy lives.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?

In addition to surviving in an area of low research funding, perhaps my greatest achievement was to work on a scientific problem to make a technical breakthrough that I patented and saw applied by biotech companies around the world.

This method allows scientists to get rid of 'unwanted' DNA in a sample and keep the important stuff. This method was used for many years to make tools for cancer diagnosis. 

What do you love about working at MCRI? 

I love being in an environment where I can easily collaborate with clinical and public health researchers. And have access to coffee and ice cream!

What makes you passionate about child health?

It may sound corny but I want to make a difference to the future health of Australians.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself

I have run seven marathons since arriving in Melbourne 19 years ago!

What do you like doing when you're not working?

I like to get down and dirty in the garden, and I like photography, Community Radio station 3RRR and the world of Twitter.