Dr Emma Scotter

BSc (Hons), PhD (Pharmacology)


I am the head of the Motor Neuron Disease Lab at the Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland.

My team, in collaboration with Professors Mike Dragunow and Richard Faull, researches various aspects of Motor Neuron Disease. Model systems range from cell lines and primary cells grown from post-mortem brain and spinal cord, to those tissues themselves. Of particular interest to me and my group are cells of the blood-brain barrier, and their ability to deal with proteins which take on aberrant structures (oligomers and aggregates). My lab uses molecular pharmacology and molecular biology techniques to study the pathways by which cells recognise and respond to these aberrantly structured proteins. These include the ubiquitin-proteasome system and selective macroautophagy. Pharmacologically or genetically enhancing the ability of these systems to clear toxic proteins which accumulate in neurodegenerative disease has great therapeutic potential. 

I am a University of Auckland graduate (BSc (Hons) and PhD (Pharmacology)). I was awarded a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship in 2010 to work at King's College London. I remained at King's College for four years, investigating misfolded proteins in motor neuron disease. I returned to the University of Auckland in early 2014 after being awarded an Aotearoa Fellowship by the Centre for Brain Research.

I was recently awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to support my vision of growing a national Motor Neuron Disease Research programme. I also received Marsden FastStart funding to investigate protein waste clearance in Motor Neuron Disease. My team and I recently established the NZ Motor Neuron Disease Research Network with funding from MND NZ.

Research | Current

  • Screening for novel compounds which promote misfolded protein clearance (collaboration with Professors Mike Dragunow and Margaret Brimble)
  • Characterising primary brain cells grown from the post-mortem brains of patients with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Professor Mike Dragunow)
  • Genetic screening of people living with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Dr. Richard Roxburgh)

Teaching | Current

Postgraduate supervision

Current lab members

  • Dr. Deidre Macveigh, Postdoctoral Fellow (with Prof. Mike Dragunow)
  • Ms Christa MacDonald, Research technician
  • Mr Jules Devaux, Research technician
  • Ms Charlotte Dunne, PhD student
  • Ms Serey Naidoo, PhD student
  • Ms Maize Cao, PhD student
  • Ms Kyrah Thumbadoo, Pharmacology Honours student

Completions and previous

  • Ms Laura Nementzik, Summer student, 2018
  • Mr Ji Hun Yoo, Summer student, 2018
  • Mr Ben Zhang, Undergraduate research experience, 2018
  • Ms Sediqa Amin, BBMedSci Honours student, 2018
  • Mr Andrew Siemens, Research technician, 2016-2018
  • Ms Maize Cao, Summer student and Science Scholar, 2017
  • Ms Sarah Waters, BBMedSci Honours student, 2017
  • Ms Kylie Pan, Summer student, 2017
  • Mr James Bailey, King's College London medical elective student, 2015

I welcome enquiries from prospective Honours, Masters and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.


Scotter Lab in the press


Areas of expertise

  • Cellular modelling of neurodegeneration
  • Protein quality control and degradation pathways
  • Motor Neuron Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; ALS)
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • TDP-43 proteinopathies

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 503 - Bldg 503
Level 5, Room 501
New Zealand

Social links

Web links