August 2015

Science meets politics and stem cells in National Science Week


Stem cell medicine is always in the news – with the hope of new treatments from good science; and the challenge of unproven therapies being over-enthusiastically promoted. In the past month there have been powerful reports in the Herald Sun and on the ABC on the issues.
 
And Science Week is underway with several stem cell science events on the agenda.
 
Welcome to the National Stem Cell Foundation’s bulletin on stem cell medicine and research in Australia.
 
The Herald Sun reported “Health authorities target Melbourne clinics’ unproven stem cell treatments.” This move is welcomed by the Foundation, and ABC Lateline explored the issue in more depth: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-08/stem-cell-therapy-dilemma/6530086
 
The Foundation is focussed on supporting robust science that will, in time, lead to real change. Our recent Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research award ceremony allowed us to introduce our 2015 winners Ryan Lister and Christine Wells to political and industry leaders at a breakfast in Melbourne. This engagement between research and community leaders is vitally important. Ryan and Christine are doing the fundamental work needed to really understand how stem cells work and to harvest their power for medicine. Read on for details.
 
National Science Week is upon us and stem cell science is part of the program. including a debate in Brisbane on whose science is weirdest, the art of stem cells in Perth, and stem cells in the movies in Melbourne.
 
Finally, congratulations to all of the 2015 Eureka Prize finalists, particularly Peter Currie and his stem cell research team from Monash who have shown how blood stem cells are made. Read on for details.  
 
Kind regards,
 
Dr Graeme L Blackman OAM
Chairman, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia 


In this bulletin:


VIPs and scientists mix at the Metcalf Prize ceremony

L-R Richard Smallwood, David Collins, Ryan Lister, Caroline Gargett, Christine Wells, Graeme Blackman, Frank McGuire and David de KretserProfessor Ryan Lister and Associate Professor Christine Wells formally received their Metcalf Prizes from Professor David de Kretser at a recent VIP breakfast at Club Melbourne. At the same event, Dr Kathryn Davidson shared her science with a member of parliament. 

The Metcalf Prizes gave us a unique opportunity to give government leaders an insight into the work of some of our top scientists.

In addition to former Governor of Victoria Professor de Kretser, Victoria’s Lead Scientist Leonie Walsh and Member for Broadmeadows Frank McGuire also attended the breakfast. There they met and mixed with Ryan and Christine, Megan Munsie of Stem Cells Australia, 2014 Metcalf Prize winner Jose Polo and our first funded researcher Kathryn Davison.

We were delighted to see Frank McGuire and Kathryn Davidson in deep conversation about her work and the day-to-day experience of scientific research. Speaking at the event about the importance of science and innovation, Frank McGuire said he wants Broadmeadows to be better known for ‘the rise of CSL, rather than the demise of Ford’.
 
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy was unable to attend, but sent her congratulations to Ryan and Christine. Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Industry and Science, also sent a warm letter of congratulations, expressing his interest in Australian stem cell science.
 
The Metcalf Prizes enabled valuable engagement between science and parliament. Congratulations again to Ryan and Christine, and thank you to the judging panel for volunteering their time and passion. Thank you also to our generous breakfast host Club Melbourne. 


Blood-forming stem cell research a Eureka Prize finalist

 A stem cell research team lead by Monash University’s Professor Peter Currie has been announced as a finalist for the University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. The team also includes Phong Nguyen, also of Monash University, and Dr Georgina Hollway, a researcher at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
 
Peter Currie and his team have identified, for the first time, a mechanism in the body that triggers hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) production. Unravelling the mystery of HSC generation could see it used to cure a range of blood disorders and immune diseases.
 
The awards are an initiative of the Australian Museum. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner on 26 August.

Read the full list of finalists


Engaging Australians with science

National Science Week stem cell roundup

National Science Week is Australia’s annual opportunity to meet scientists, discuss the hot topics, do science and celebrate its cultural and economic impact on society.

The 2015 program features a handful of stem cell science-related activities:

  • Metcalf Prize winner Christine Wells has argued that stem cell research is the weirdest and most wonderful discipline, joining the panel at The Great Debate: My Research Rules in Brisbane.
  • Over in the West, the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research—the home institution of our other 2015 winner Ryan Lister—will throw open its doors to the public for the first time. This Open Day is a rare chance to see and experience our scientists’ workplaces, where they tackle cancers, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and other serious diseases.
  • Perth’s SciTech will also open its leg of the Stem Cell Stories tour of stem cell photography, an initiative of the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research, supported by the Foundation.
  • What’s the real science behind ‘Blade Runner’? Stem Cells Australia’s Megan Munsie will join a panel of experts in Melbourne discussing the science behind scifi at a Science in the Cinema screening of this 1987 cult classic.

National Science Week 2015 will run from 15-23 August. Event details can be found at www.scienceweek.net.au.


Stem cell news from around the world

 Between newsletters, we share stem cell news on social media:

Here are a few of the stories we’ve shared recently.

Daily Mail: Four-year-old is set to save her big brother's life by donating her stem cells to help treat his rare blood disorder

Business Insider: Scientists are finding ways to reprogram cells and reverse some of our deadliest diseases

Medical Xpress: Dental pulp cell transplants help regenerate peripheral nerves

Newswise: Regenerative Medicine Biologists Discover a Cellular Structure That Explains Fate of Stem Cells

Herald Sun: Health authorities target Melbourne clinics’ unproven stem cell treatments

University of Adelaide: Supercharging stem cells to create new therapies

ABC News: Stem cell therapy dilemma pits patient outcomes against quest for innovation

The Tribune India: Give in to the lure to cure

Cornell University News: Stem cell technology could lead to ailing heart mending itself

Asian Scientist: Cytokine Cocktail Recipe For Muscle Stem Cells; and the Nature paper

Phys.org: KeyGenes can predict future identity of human fetal stem cells

Gizmodo: Scientists are Growing Tiny Cerebral Cortexes in Petri Dishes



About the Foundation

The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia is an ATO-registered tax-deductible Health Promotion Charity dedicated to promoting the study and responsible use of stem cells to reduce the burden of disease.
 
The Foundation’s activities include:

  • supporting research that pursues cures for as-yet-untreatable diseases
  • building a community of people with a shared interest in stem cell science
  • providing the Australian public with objective, reliable information on both the potential and risks of stem cell medicine.
We are working to build a community of people with a stake in stem cell science and to promote collaboration between scientists locally and internationally.
 
Please feel free to contact the Foundation’s Executive Officer Julia Mason via jmason@stemcellfoundation.net.au


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We're keen to build a community of people with a stake in stem cell science to educate the community and support patients, clinicians and researchers. Feel free to pass this newsletter on to anyone who might be interested.
 
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If you have comments, questions or news you think might be of interest to the stem cell community, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at enquiries@stemcellfoundation.net.au.

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We aim to:

  • Promote the study and use of stem cells

  • Prevent or control diseases or illness

  • Enhance public education about stem cells