Professor Ernst Wolvetang

Senior Group Leader

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
+61 7 334 63894


Professor Wolvetang is an international leader in the area of pluripotent stem cell biology and human functional genomics. he initiated and leads Cell Reprogramming Australia, a collaborative framework that facilitates induced pluripotent stem cell research in Australa and is co-director of the UQ Centre in Stem Cell Ageing and Regenerative Engineering (StemCARE). He has extensive expertise in reprogramming somatic cells, differentiation and tissue engineering with adult, embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells, genome manipulation with CRISPR, molecular biology, transcriptome analysis, high content image analysis, development and use of microfluidic devices for cell analysis, nanoparticle and scaffold design and delivery, and stem cell and cell-free regenerative medicine approaches.Professor Wolvetang has been instrumental in establishing and enabling the technology for derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells across Australia. Professor Wolvetang made the strategic decision to focus on the generation of induced pluripotent stem from patients with neurological and cardiac disorders because live human cells from such patients can usually not be obtained whereas induced pluripotent stem cells have the ability to generate every cell type of the human brain in unlimited amounts and can recapitulate the disease in the dish. Induced pluripotent stem cells combined with emerging technologies such as CRISPR-based genome editing offers a unique opportunity to study the role of individual genes and combinatorial gene regulatory pathways in the eatiology of monogenic and complex brain disorders. Indeed, combined with RNA-seq and organoid generation we are now for the first time able to gain insight into gene regulatory pathways operational in individual brain cell types of healthy and diseased individuals, investigate the connectivity and function of cells, as well as pinpoint where and when during early development such deregulated pathways lead to pathological changes. Induced pluripotent stem cells further not only provide insight into the underlying pathogenesis of neurological disorders but also constitute a valuable drugscreening platform and, following CRISPR-based gene correction, can form the basis of patient specific cellular therapies for currently incurable diseases.

Professor Wolvetang received his PhD in 1992 from the Department of Biochemistry, University of Amsterdam for his original work on peroxisomal disease (6 papers). He undertook postdoctoral studies at the Department of Biochemistry and the Institute for Reproduction and Development of Monash University, investigating apoptosis, Down syndrome and Ets transcription factors, respectively, obtaining the first evidence for an intra-chromosomal regulatory loop on chromosome 21 involving Ets2 (3 papers), and revealing the role of p53 in immune-suppression in Down syndrome (Hum Mol. Genetics). He then joined Prof Martin Pera in the Australian Stem Cell Centre in 2003 to pioneer human embryonic stem cell research in Australia, resulting in a first author Nature Biotechnology paper in 2006 identifying CD30 as a marker for genetically abnormal hESC (72 cites). He was appointed group leader of the Basic human stem cell biology laboratory in the ASCC research laboratory and senior lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Cell biology until he accepted his current position as an independent group leader at the AIBN and Professor in stem cell biology at the University of Queensland in 2008. There he started to generate integration-free induced pluripotent stem cells from human neurological diseases such as ataxia-telangiectasia (Stem cells translational medicine). In recognition of his leadership role in this area of research he was appointed leader of the “Reprogramming and Induction of pluripotency” Collaborative Stream of the Australian Stem Cell Centre until the end of that initiative in 2011, coordinating collaborative research between eight stem cell laboratories across Australia. He subsequently initiated and is now the president of Cell Reprogramming Australia, a collaborative framework aiming to facilitate and accelerate iPS cell research in Australia and the Asia pacific region and inform the general public about reprogramming technology. His research continues to combine cell reprogramming technology, genome editing/analysis tools and microfluidic/nanoparticle based detection/ delivery technologies with the aim of creating human in vitro models of disease, unravel the underlying gene regulatory networks and enable novel cell- and delivery-based therapeutics, respectively. He further co-direct the UQ-Centre for stem cell ageing and regenerative engineering (UQ-StemCARE).

Research Interests

  • Functional human genomics
    Because iPSC can generate every cell type of the body they can be used to model a variety of diseases. CRSIPR assisted technologies can be used for functional genomics approaches. We have a particular interest in neurological diseases and generation of mini-organoids from stem cells.
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells
    Any cell from a mature organism can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent stem cell with the ability to generate any cell type of the body. This allows unprecedented possibilities to investigate disease.

Research Impacts

Memberships, patents and funding

Professor Wolvetang serves on the editorial board of six stem cell and nanotechnology journals; is listed inventor on four patents in stem cell research; and is the recipient of more than $2.5 million in grant funding in the past five years. He is a senior reprogramming scientist in Stem Cells Ltd,

Awards and plenaries

2016 Scopus Eureka Prize for Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration ,

2014 Recipient of the AON regenerative medicine prize, LSQ.

Professor Wolvetang has given 25 lectures and was invited speaker at 23 platform meetings, including multiple keynote addresses;Functional genomics approaches to human neurological diseases. Australia-China symposium. (Melbourne, October 15-18 2015) andFunctional genomics of trisomy 21. Human Genetics Society of Australia, 12th symposium (Adelaide 18 Sept 2015). He spoke at the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) conference in Toronto, Canada in 2006; and the 2nd Annual World Congress of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell in Dalian, China in 2009. Professor Wolvetang organised a master-class on iPS cells at The 2nd Annual World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress in Seoul, Korea in 2010.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam


  • Slonchak, Andrii, Hugo, Leon E., Freney, Morgan, Amarilla, Alberto A., Hall-Mendelin, Sonja, Yan, Kexin, Torres, Francisco, Setoh, Yin Xiang, Peng, Nias, Chaggar, Harman K., Hurk, Andrew Van Den, Wolvetang, Ernst, Suhrbier, Andreas, Devine, Gregor J. and Khromykh, Alexander A. (2020). Zika Virus sfRNA plays an essential role in the infection of insects and mammals. Proceedings, 50 (1), 112. doi: 10.3390/proceedings2020050112

  • Aguado, Julio, d’Adda di Fagagna, Fabrizio and Wolvetang, Ernst (2020). Telomere transcription in Ageing. Ageing Research Reviews, 62 101115, 101115. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2020.101115

  • Hollywood, Jennifer A., Przepiorski, Aneta, D'Souza, Randall F., Sreebhavan, Sreevalsan, Wolvetang, Ernst J., Harrison, Patrick T., Davidson, Alan J. and Holm, Teresa M. (2020). Use of human induced pluripotent stem cells and kidney organoids to develop a cysteamine/mTOR inhibition combination therapy for cystinosis. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology , 31 (5), 962-982. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2019070712

View all Publications


View all Grants


View all Supervision


Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision