Around the universities and research institutes

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja17.0603C2
Published online: 6 March 2017

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has awarded the Neil Hamilton Fairley Medal, 2017 to University of Sydney cancer researcher, Professor Roger Reddel. The Medal acknowledges his contribution to the study of cancer in a 30-year career that has seen him break new ground in understanding the disease. Professor Reddel is a medical oncologist, molecular geneticist and an internationally regarded expert on cancer cell immortalisation. He is also Director of Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI), Westmead, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. Professor Reddel's research focuses on how cancer cells can divide unlimited times. His goal is to understand the process in enough detail to develop treatments that can limit the growth of cancer cells. He has also discovered a mechanism called Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) necessary for the continued growth of some aggressive cancers, including osteosarcoma, glioblastoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours. He has also overseen the continued growth and success of the CMRI since becoming Director in 2007. Under his leadership, CMRI has established several new research units and has opened the state-of-the-art Vector and Genome Engineering Facility. He also established Cell Bank Australia, a one-of-a-kind national cell line repository to ensure the integrity of cell lines used in research. Professor Reddel is also the Sir Lorimer Dods Professor, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. He gained his medical degrees at the University of Sydney (1977), trained in medical oncology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and completed a PhD in cancer cell biology in 1985. He has also received multiple fellowships to undertake postdoctoral research at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. The RACP awards the Neil Hamilton Fairley Medal every 5 years to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of medicine.

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute’s Professor Melissa Little has been named the new head of Stem Cells Australia (SCA) by the University of Melbourne. SCA is a national alliance of more than 120 experts from Australian universities and research institutes seeking to develop innovative ways to harness the potential of stem cells. University of Melbourne’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor James McCluskey said Professor Little will bring a wealth of experience to the role, with a strong vision to advance Australian science in this important area of medical research. “As an internationally-recognised leader in stem cell science across more than 25 years for her work in developmental biology, Professor Little is an excellent choice to help build on the achievements of Australian scientists in this area and facilitate research to enable the next phase of stem cell medicine.” Professor Little has sought to understand kidney development and disease. Her team’s breakthrough research growing mini-kidneys in a dish from stem cells won the 2016 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. The discovery could lead to new treatments for kidney disease, a better way to test new drugs or even bioengineer kidneys for transplant. These are very long term projects that will take many years of additional work.

Three Telethon Kids Institute researchers have been awarded funding from the Raine Medical Research Foundation. Dr Melissa O’Donnell was awarded a Raine Priming Grant supported by the Jon and Caro Stewart Family Foundation for her project entitled “Alcohol-related harm in young people: developing a longitudinal evidence base”, and named the Stewart/BrightSpark/Raine Project as it was ranked “outstanding” in the area of child health research. Dr O’Donnell received funding of $187 128. Dr Ashleigh Lin received $150 000 in funding for her project: GENTLE: The GENder identiTy Longitudinal Experience Project. She also received the 2017 Strachan Memorial Prize for her publication, “Outcomes of non-transitioned cases in a sample at ultra-high risk for psychosis: a medium to long-term follow-up study”, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Dr Lin will receive a $5000 travel grant. Dr Laurence Cheung was awarded a 2017 BrightSpark Research Collaboration Award for his project, “Identification of novel drug combinations to cure high-risk infant leukaemia”, and received $8988.–events/news-and-events-nav/2016/december/telethon-kids-researchers-awarded-raine-medical-research-foundation-funding/

Professor Kate Loveland is the new Head of the Centre for Reproductive Health at Hudson Institute of Medical Research. An accomplished male reproductive health researcher, Professor Loveland holds an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship and leads the Testis Development and Male Germ Cell Biology Research Group in the Centre. Professor Loveland is also Head of Postgraduate Studies for the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash University, a role she will continue. Professor Loveland is a leading researcher in testes development. She is interested in understanding how in utero and early life events have an impact on the fertility of men, including as a pathway to understanding why the rates of testicular cancer continue to rise internationally and why IVF is needed for conception of 1 in 30 children born in Australia. Professor Loveland received her undergraduate and PhD degrees at Duke University in the United States, studying the molecular basis of mammalian fertilisation.

Black Dog Institute researcher Dr Aliza Werner-Seidler has won a prestigious NSW Health Early Career Research Fellowship to investigate how e-mental health interventions can be used in schools to prevent mental illness. In earlier research, Dr Werner-Seidler identified that school-based mental health programs can prevent or delay the onset of depression and anxiety in young people. In the first phase of this Fellowship, Dr Werner-Seidler aims to identify the barriers and facilitators to the school-based delivery of an e-health depression prevention program. These findings will then be used to develop a “best practice” implementation plan that is both effective and acceptable to students and the education system. Work on this project will begin in 2017.

  • Cate Swannell



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