Around the universities

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 3 August 2015

Bond University has appointed Professor Helen O’Neill to the newly created position of Chair of Immunology and Stem Cell Biology. Professor O’Neill will bring three researchers with her to Bond, taking the total team working on regenerative medicine and stem cell-based immunotherapies at the university to eight. Professor O’Neill is a leading immunology and stem cell expert. After graduating from the University of Adelaide with an honours degree in genetics, she has worked in medical research at Stanford University in California and the Australian National University in Canberra. She has been awarded several prestigious fellowships including the National Health and Medical Research Council CJ Martin Fellowship and a Cancer Research Fellowship working at Stanford University under Irv Weissman.

Monash University researchers have secured $6.5 million in funding to continue research on combating antibiotic resistance. Of the funding awarded by the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), $2 million will be directed to Monash-led research. Polymyxin B is able to kill “superbugs”, but it can also cause kidney toxicity. The new NIH-funded multi-national, multicentre clinical study will investigate the pharmacology of polymyxin B in critically ill patients infected with a superbug. Professor Jian Li from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) is a co-principal investigator of this 5-year project and will lead the Monash team conducting all laboratory investigations. The Monash team also comprises Professor Roger Nation from MIPS and Professor Anthony Purcell from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Biomedical and Psychological Sciences.

The University of Sydney has released a second discussion paper in its strategic planning process for 2016 to 2020. Investing in research excellence follows on from an education strategy discussion paper released in June and a survey of staff and students earlier in the year. The paper explores how the University could support strategic investment in key areas of existing and emerging research excellence over the next 5 years. It outlines the case for the University to make strategic investment in areas of disciplinary and multidisciplinary research, and the criteria and processes by which such areas might be identified. Find out more and have your say about the research discussion paper at

University of Tasmania Faculty of Health researcher Dr Romy Singh Sohal recently travelled to the US to receive a Scholarship Award from the National Emphysema Foundation, Honouring Claude Lenfant, MD, by the American Thoracic Society (ATS). In April, he was also presented with the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and Japanese Respiratory Society Early Career Development Award at its annual meeting. He has been invited by the Japanese Respiratory Society to speak and chair sessions at their annual scientific meeting in April next year. Dr Sohal’s award recognises his work over the past 9 years on a process called epithelial–mesenchymal transition in the airways.

Professor Greg Woods, the immunologist who leads the scientific hunt for a vaccine against the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), has been formally recognised for his 30-year contribution to medical research, teaching and the community. The awarding of the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Certificate in Recognition of Distinguished Service to Medicine, Science and Community in Tasmania was announced at the ASMR Medical Research Week annual dinner in Hobart. Professor Woods, who works for University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the School of Medicine, joined the University’s School of Medicine Pathology Department in 1988.

An exceptional contribution to stem cell research by Professor Ryan Lister, of the University of Western Australia’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, has been recognised with a major award. He won a $50,000 Metcalf Prize from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia. Professor Lister generated the first comprehensive maps of the human epigenome, and discovered that when specialised human cells were converted into adult stem cells, the reprogrammed adult stem cells retained a memory of the cell they once were. Professor Lister’s work on human epigenome mapping was rated by TIME magazine as the second most important scientific discovery of 2009.

University of Wollongong’s medical historian Associate Professor Louella McCarthy has won a coveted Harvard Fellowship to research the history of female doctors. Professor McCarthy, from the School of Medicine, will travel to the Countway Library Harvard in October as part of the 2015–2016 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellowship. While there, she will scour Harvard’s Centre for the History of Medicine archives to investigate the history of the internationalist ambitions of American medical women, particularly during the period up to the 1970s. This project extends Professor McCarthy’s current work with a team from the Australian Federation of Medical Women.

  • Cate Swannell



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